USA Volunteer Water Monitoring Network

Understanding Data Results

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Question 1: What do the data from several drainage ways mean?  How can I evaluate it?

Question 2: What are the implications of biological impairment (beyond wildlife and stream biology itself)?

Question 3: Any comments regarding relating biological metrics to stressors would be greatly appreciated.

Question 1

I have several years of data from several drainage ways in the City of Arlington Texas. What does the data mean? How can I evaluate it? What is good water quality? Should I change my monitoring program to collect more or less data?

Where is a good guide to evaluating the data collected with a volunteer monitoring program? Evaluating the data in terms of is the water quality good or bad improving or declining etc.

Responses to Question 1

Hello Robert:

I thought I would address a few of your questions regarding the drainage way data your have. Obviously without having the data itself all I can do is direct you to resources for helping you evaluate the information you have.

I’m sure you have already done this, but the first step would be to look at the water quality standards as identified by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us/permitting/waterperm/wqstand/index.html#copies). These are generally in a narrative form, but do provide some numbers for dissolved oxygen for you to compare your data against. These standards will also help you to determine if your monitoring program is focusing on those parameters for which there are criteria, and if not, perhaps you can consider adding some of these parameters.

The best source for identifying water quality criteria on the federal level is USEPA (http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/). This site will give you access to criteria for a wide range of parameters including biological, chemical and microbiological. Also look for the Texas nutrient criteria information at (http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us/permitting/waterperm/wqstand/ncdawg.html).

Three other sources for assessing volunteer generated stream data are the USEPA Volunteer Stream Monitoring Manual (available on-line at http://www.epa.gov/owow/monitoring/volunteer/), River Network’s Living Waters document (http://www.rivernetwork.org/lw/) and Washington (State) Dept of Ecology’s A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding and Monitoring Lakes and Streams (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/management/joysmanual/index.html).

In terms of your monitoring program – the biggest question is to ask what your goals are, and whether the program is meeting those? Our factsheet Designing Your Monitoring Strategy… (http://www.uwex.edu/ces/csreesvolmon/Outreach/DesigningYourStrategy.pdf) may help you to determine that, as well as direct you to other resources.

If you have any questions after reviewing these sources, I would recommend contacting the TNRC and/or water quality experts at Texas Cooperative Extension. Also we would be happy to take another stab at answering some specific questions about the data or your monitoring program. Good luck!

 

Elizabeth Herron

Program Coordinator

URI Watershed Watch

Phone: 401-874-4552

Fax: 401-874-4561

Web: http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/

Question 2

Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2008 10:25:43 -0500
From: John Murphy
Subject: [volmonitor] Biological Impairment – So What?

November 16, 2008
Dear Fellow Monitors and Monitoring Program Coordinators,
Our program here in Central Virginia is six years old, and we’ve achieved a high level of credibility in our community. Few doubt the accuracy of our data or the veracity of our finding that most local streams fail to meet the Virginia benthic standard. But the question arising now is “what are the implications of biological impairment (beyond wildlife and stream biology itself)?”. Some quarters of the community want to know whether there are human economic or health implications.
I have not formally researched this question, and, in a sense, this post to EPA Volmon is an initiation of research. But I have a working familiarity with at least some of the literature, and my sense so far is that the correlations between biological impairment and direct, “first order” human health and economic costs are moderate, not strong. Streams that are badly biologically impaired, for instance, may often be non-swimmable, but streams that are moderately biologically impaired are often A-OK for recreation. Similarly, I am unaware of findings that show a strong correlation between biological condition and water treatment costs.
In our community, most streams are moderately biologically impaired, and some sectors of the community don’t find this alarming. If you would care to comment or direct me to literature addressing this issue, I would be grateful.

John Murphy
Director, StreamWatch
Office 434-923-8642
Cell 434-242-1145
johnmurphy@streamwatch.org
www.streamwatch.org

Responses to Question 2

Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2008 11:20:00 -0600
From: Danelle Haake
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Biological Impairment – So What?

John,
The implications of biological impairments are as varied as the streams that we monitor. To really know the human health implications, the economic losses to the community (recreational value, fishing), or the economics of remediating the system, we must know what is causing the biological impairment (or at least have a good idea). Possibly a fish kill several years ago removed resident fish species and a dam or culvert is preventing repopulation. Excess road salt may have washed into the stream, causing chronically or acutely toxic conditions. Excessive erosion from agricultural fields or construction sites may have filled pools and interstitial spaces, removing vital habitat. These examples would have minimal human health impacts, though they may decimate the aquatic community. Or the causes could be toxic conditions (e.g., excessive pesticides, human releases of hormones and pharmaceuticals, heavy metals) or pathogens. These could have human health implications. I’ve used the EPA Stressor Identification protocol (an adapted version) to identify causes of impairments in Iowa streams. There will be an upcoming issue of the journal Human and Ecological Risk Assessment (HERA) dedicated to stressor ID case studies. Let me know if you would like furter information.

Danelle Haake
Deer Creek Consulting, LLC
www.deercreekconsultingllc.com
River des Peres Watershed Coalition
www.riverdesperes.org

 

Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2008 12:42:14 -0600
From: “Clayton, Christopher R – DNR”

John and All,
Here’s a link to a review of recent research linking economic cost and eutrophication of surface waters nationwide:
Economic damages from nutrient pollution create a “toxic debt”
A U.S. analysis of nutrient pollution in freshwater reveals annual losses of at least $4 billion, mostly from dips in lakefront property values and loss of recreational use.
http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/sample.cgi/esthag/asap/html/es803044n.html
Click on the second link in the review text to get a copy of the study. By the way, the study addresses several costs, including the treatment of drinking water.
Chris

Chris Clayton
Coordinator
Citizen Based Stream Monitoring
River Alliance of Wisconsin and WDNR
306 E. Wilson, 2W
Madison, WI 53703
608/257-2424 x120

 

Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2008 10:31:42 -0500
From: Simon Gruber
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Biological Impairment – So What?

This is a very important topic and question. I don’t have any specific information at hand. I believe that while it may not be well documented in controlled scientific studies, it is prudent and rational to base management and restoration policies on an assumption that there is a direct link between the health of stream biota and of people who live with and near these resources, and of people who live downstream. This approach follows the precautionary principle, which is apparently a guiding framework in other countries (especially parts of Europe) but less so in the US. This principle places the burden of proof on claims that something is safe, rather than requiring a demonstration of harm before taking action. This viewpoint should also apply to economic values and impacts. Initiatives to monitor and protect ambient water quality will definitely be strengthened and their usefulness improved through stronger links between the water quality sector and organizations and people working on public health issues. If anyone has any information or contacts on existing partnerships along these lines please share.

Simon Gruber

 

Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 14:49:42 +1300
From: Phil
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Biological Impairment – So What?

I’ve hesitated to respond to this but there are important concepts involved.
We protect the environment to protect ourselves, not due to a sense of altruism or good nature. Declining environmental quality is indicated by biological impairment in streams, although the ultimate source can be industry, agriculture, storm water or other source of contaminants. But when we see deterioration in streams, we are getting proof of system decline. This proof is needed to get action from the vested interests causing the problem. Without proof of impact, the people behind the sources can’t really be forced to clean up.

Phil Ross
New Zealand

 

Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 07:51:38 -0500
From: John Murphy

Dear VolMon Colleagues,

A few weeks back I submitted a post entitled “Biological Impairment – So What?” in which I noted that our monitoring program in Central Virginia is prompting some community members to ask about the implications of biological degradation. (Full text of my post is pasted to the end of this email). I asked VolMon members to comment on or give examples of economic and health correlates of biological impairment. I received a number of interesting responses; the digest below captures representative examples. I have slotted the excerpts into two categories: “QUANTITATIVE” and “QUALITTIVE”. One respondent provided some references which are also pasted below.

The VolMon authors didn’t necessarily send their posts to the whole listserv, so I don’t give their names here.

Thank you for your thoughts and information!

John Murphy
StreamWatch
Charlottesville, Virginia

*****************

QUANTITATIVE

1) An often cited example, which comes from the Chichilnisky and Heal 1998 paper (see REFERENCES below) is the comparison between the cost of technological replacements for the provision of clean, safe drinking water in one watershed (Catskill watershed, New York). Costs for water treatment were estimated at US$6-8 billion, leading municipalities to purchase the entire watershed to perform this ecosystem service for US$1-1.5 billion instead.

2) Lands in permanent vegetative cover have been estimated to reduce the cost of filtering sediment in municipal drinking water by $5.60 per hectare per year, and phosphorus reduction costs by $23.30 per hectare per year.

3) Economic damages from nutrient pollution create a “toxic debt”
A U.S. analysis of nutrient pollution in freshwater reveals annual losses of at least $4 billion, mostly from dips in lakefront property values and loss of recreational use.
http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/sample.cgi/esthag/asap/html/es803044n.html

Click on the link in the review text to get a copy of the study. By the way, the study addresses several costs, including the treatment of drinking water.

*********************

QUALITATIVE

1) The implications of biological impairments are as varied as the streams that we monitor. To really know the human health implications, the economic losses to the community (recreational value, fishing), or the economics of remediating the system, we must know what is causing the biological impairment (or at least have a good idea). Possibly a fish kill several years ago removed resident fish species and a dam or culvert is preventing repopulation. Excess road salt may have washed into the stream, causing chronically or acutely toxic conditions. Excessive erosion from agricultural fields or construction sites may have filled pools and interstitial spaces, removing vital habitat. These examples would have minimal human health impacts, though they may decimate the aquatic community. Or the causes could be toxic conditions (e.g., excessive pesticides, human releases of hormones and pharmaceuticals, heavy metals) or pathogens. These could have human health implications.

2) . . . it is prudent and rational to base management and restoration policies on an assumption that there is a direct link between the health of stream biota and of people who live with and near these resources, and of people who live downstream. This approach follows the precautionary principle, which is apparently a guiding framework in other countries (especially parts of Europe) but less so in the US. This principle places the burden of proof on claims that something is safe, rather than requiring a demonstration of harm before taking action. This viewpoint should also apply to economic values and impacts.
*************

REFERENCES
Costanza, R., d’Arge, R., de Groot, R.S., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., Limburg,K., Naeem, S., O’Neill, R.V., Paruelo, J., Raskin, R.G., Sutton, P., van den Belt, M. 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387:253-260.

Daily, G.C. (Ed.), 1997. Nature’s Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems. Island Press, Washington, DC.

Daily, G.C., T. Soderquist, S. Aniyar, K. Arrow, P. Dasgupta, P.R. Ehrlich, C. Folke, A.M. Jansson, B.O. Jansson, N. Kautsky, S. Levin, J. Lubchenco, K.G. Maler, S. David,D. Starrett, D. Tilman, and B. Walker. 2000. The value of nature and the nature of value. Science 289:395-396.

Chichilnisky, G. and G. Heal. 1998. Economic returns from the biosphere. Nature 391:629-630.


John Murphy
Director, StreamWatch
Office 434-923-8642
Cell 434-242-1145
johnmurphy@streamwatch.org
www.streamwatch.org

 

Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 11:02:39 -0500
From: Simon Gruber

John, Thanks for compiling these responses. One clarification: the Catskill watershed example cited, which is part of NY City’s water supply system, is indeed a major example of watershed protection as an alternative to filtration. But while this watershed protection program does include outright acquisition of significant land areas (only from willing sellers, on a voluntary basis), the majority of the land area in the watershed is still privately owned. The watershed protection and filtration avoidance program has many other components designed to protect water quality, with land acquisition being just one. Based on progress during the first 10 years, EPA recently renewed and extended the filtration avoidance determination for another 10 years. The dollar figure you listed, somewhere over $1B, is the cost of all the measures implemented by the City, state and other entities for land acquisition, upgrade of wastewater systems, stormwater management, come economic development assistance in the watershed, agricultural best practices, and other measures. Simon Gruber

Question 3

Date: Sat, 08 Oct 2005 11:24:56 -0400
From: John Murphy
Subject: [volmonitor] relating biological metrics to specific stressors

Colleagues-

Our stream monitoring program in central Virginia is looking into the feasibility of employing benthic data to indicate presence and effect intensity of specific stressors (e.g. sediment). Karr and others allude to biomonitoring’s application in this vein, but I have not encountered a guidance document. We are aware of some of the general theoretical relationships between taxa and stressors (e.g.hydropsychidae and excess fine particulate organic matter), but, again, we are not aware of published literature we can pull off the shelf and use to guide an analysis. We’ll be exploring the literature, but I thought it would also make sense to post the question here.

Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

John Murphy

John Murphy, Director
StreamWatch
streamwatch@cstone.net
office: (434) 923-8642
cell: (434) 242-1145
www.streamwatch.org

Responses to Question 3

Date: Sat, 08 Oct 2005 14:02:28 -0400
From: “J. Kelly Nolan, Capital Region Coordinator”
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] relating biological metrics to specific stressors

Hello John- NYS DEC uses a community similarity method called Impact Source Determination (ISD) to determine the most likely stressor that may be occurring at a site. They have developed several models which help determine the most likely stressor that may be occurring at a site. One of the stressors is siltation. I now determine ISD for all my biomonitoring surveys.

There is a book titled Biological Response Signatures and the EPA has a written discussion on it at this web site:
http://www.epa.gov/bioindicators/html/brsig.html

You can also find the book at Amazon.com

I hope this helps and perhaps we can talk more about this at the macroinvertebrate workshop in February.

Kelly

 

Alice Mayio
Volunteer water monitoring
10/11/2005 10:15

John,

EPA’s Office of Science and Technology published a guidance document a few years ago, the Stressor Identification Guidance Document (EPA 822-B-00-025).

It’s available on the web at http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/biocriteria/stressors/stressorid.html

(this page has a fact sheet and a link to the pdf file) and (if it seems to be what you need) you should also be able to order a hard copy from EPA’s Water Resource Center at center.water-resouce@epa.gov.

This would appear to be what you’re looking for.

Alice Mayio
USEPA (4503T)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 566-1184

Street Address for visitors/deliveries:
EPA West
1301 Constitution Avenue, NW
Room 7424B
Washington, DC 20004

 

Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2005 11:22:23 -0400
From: Toth.David@epamail.epa.gov
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] relating biological metrics to specific stressors

Dear Alice,

The document “Stressor Identification Guidance Document”, 822/B-00/025
can also be ordered from www.epa.gov/nscep.

David Toth

 

From: ANNE MILLER

Below is the link to the USGS publication regarding aquatic
macroinvertebrates and nutrients.

http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/pp1722/

In case the link doesn’t work, the publication is “Nutrient Concentrations and Their Relations to the Biotic Integrity of Wadeable Streams in Wisconsin” by Dale M. Robertson1, David J. Graczyk, Paul J. Garrison, Lizhu Wang, Gina LaLiberte, and Roger Bannerman. USGS Publication 1772.

Anne

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