Speech given at U.S. Congressional Briefing on
One of the primary missions of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is to carry-out key provisions of the Nation’s Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA calls for states to report on the quality of their respective waters; this report is commonly known as the 305(b) report. The CWA also requires states to develop a list of water bodies identified as polluted – the 303(d) list, and to formulate plans to restore beneficial uses to listed waters. Ohio EPA is recognized as having one of the leading water quality monitoring programs in the nation. This recognition is borne, in part, by the low error rate Ohio EPA has in classifying water bodies as either meeting or not meeting basic Clean Water Act goals. A low error rate is obviously important in that we want to avoid wasting resources on spurious 303(d) listings (that is, listing water bodies as polluted when, in fact, they are not), and conversely, we want to avoid failing to identify polluted waters. Ohio EPA’s low error rate is accomplished by making decisions in a science-based, data-rich environment. The USGS NAWQA program helps Ohio EPA make informed water resource management decisions by providing information from independent water quality studies, advancing the science of water quality monitoring, and through collaborative studies and sharing of technical expertise for the study of water quality problems. The Miami NAWQA, in particular, has contributed in each of these areas.
Independent verification of study results is the bedrock
foundation of science, and is common practice in laboratory studies. However, given the cost, resource demands, and
multiplicity of often competing objectives, water quality studies of whole
catchments, on the scale of those performed by NAWQA and Ohio EPA, are seldom
reproduced independently. NAWQA is one
of the few programs that provide this vital piece of science. For example, an Ohio EPA Total Maximum Daily
Load (TMDL) study determined that the
In a similar vein, the Miami NAWQA study of urbanization and stream quality drew comparable conclusions to an Ohio EPA state-wide study of effects from urbanization, confirming the importance of maintaining riparian buffers and stream physical habitat. This finding has clear implications in drawing guidelines for suburban development. It is timely with respect to several on-going Ohio EPA TMDL studies, particularly the Big Darby Creek TMDL. Big Darby Creek has been designated by American Rivers as one of the ten most imperiled rivers in our nation because it is threatened by suburbanization. The NAWQA study was able to confirm what Ohio EPA could only conclude inferentially, that a significant part of the cause of poor biological quality in urbanized catchments is due to loadings of insecticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals. This later finding was supported by the exchange of data between USGS and Ohio EPA. These findings are important because many researchers focus mainly on the consequences of hydrologic alteration affected by impervious surfaces and ignore water quality. Knowing the importance of water chemistry to aquatic ecosystems helps Ohio EPA assign with greater confidence the causes and sources of pollution to impaired waters appearing on the 303(d) list.
Without NAWQA’s findings water pollution impacts in urban areas would have been under-diagnosed by Ohio EPA’s routine survey methods. NAWQA studies sample fewer sites more intensively within a given geographic area. Ohio EPA samples more extensively but with less intensity at any given site. Obviously the two study approaches are geared toward achieving different specific objectives, but together prove complimentary. For example, Ohio EPA’s large inventory of stream data throughout the GMR basin was helpful in guiding site selection and data interpretation for the intensive USGS urban gradient study, the results of which, in turn have helped Ohio EPA better understand urban streams as just described.
Lastly, by providing technical expertise developed within
the NAWQA program, and through collaborative study, USGS has helped shape Ohio
EPA’s on-going efforts toward developing TMDLs, nutrient water quality
standards, and monitoring of non-point pollution. Ohio EPA has adopted methods for sampling and
quantifying periphyton communities developed by the NAWQA program and described
by Dr. Julie Hambrook that are currently being applied to the study of nutrient
enrichment in Ohio’s rivers and streams.
Furthermore, USGS has shared data and sample splits from a similar study
In summary, the NAWQA program provides essential scientific functions to Ohio EPA that would otherwise be lacking, and so not only provides timely and useful water quality information, but furthers the mission of other resource agencies.