USA Volunteer Water Monitoring Network

Uses of Volunteer Monitoring Data

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Question 1: I am interested in examples of how volunteer monitoring data is being used by local and state agencies.

Question 2: How do volunteer monitoring groups use their data?

Question 3: Would any of you happen to have any examples of how volunteer data have been used by state and/or federal agencies for 305(b) reports or 303(d) lists?

Question 4: Do you know of or are you a part of a government agency that refuses to use volunteer collected data? If so, what are the reasons for that? Or, what are your biggest concerns or problems with trying to get your volunteer collected data used by government agencies?

Question 1

Date: Tue, 08 Jun 2004 16:52:35 -0400
From: Jessica Thompson
Subject: [volmonitor] Questions regarding uses of volunteer monitoring

I am interested in examples of how volunteer monitoring data is being used by local and state agencies. Particulary for activities beyond public outreach, such as decision making, law enforcement, etc. If you have knowledge of an active or planned program using this sort of data, please respond with basic information, such as the following.

Are you using volunteer monitoring data for any purpose beyond citizen outreach and education? If so, what is it being used for? Do you think it would possible to use this data for implementation of the Clean Water Act, such as water body classification?

What are some details of the structure of the program, such as budget, amount of staff, sampling protocols used, training materials used, overall numbers of volunteers? What kind of data are the citizens collecting (basic field parameters, other water quality data, biological data)?

How long has the program been in existence? Do you have any specific success stories? Was there significant resistance to the program at the start, either within local and state agencies, or by the community?

Thanks very much for your help.

Jessica Thompson
jess_thompson@alumni.duke.edu
River Alliance of Wisconsin
www.wisconsinrivers.org

Responses to Question 1

Date: Wed, 09 Jun 2004 12:56:44 -0400
From: URI Watershed Watch
Subject: [volmonitor] RE: Questions regarding uses of volunteer monitoring

Jessica:
For some good success stories of how volunteer data has been used beyond education and outreach I’d suggest checking out The Volunteer Monitor newsletter issue with that title (http://www.epa.gov/volunteer/summer02/volmon.pdf) Our program has a story included in there, and we are fortunate that the URI Watershed Watch data enjoys a wide range of uses.

It is directly incorporated into the RI Department of Environmental Management’s water quality database, and is used for waterbody classification through the State of RI Waters report (305B report) and to identify impaired waters (303 D list). Our volunteer generated data is sought by DEM personnel and consultants for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), environmental impact and other studies, including follow-up monitoring after the implementation of best management practices, etc. To our knowledge the data has not, nor would we want it to be used directly for law enforcement purposes. Rather the data has helped better target follow-up monitoring by enforcement agencies. The data has also been used to justify changes in local ordinances such as the development of special areas of protection, waste water ordinances, and prohibition of the feeding of waterfowl (which has now gone statewide)

This has been accomplished over more than a decade (program started in 1988) and with a lot of hard work by our staff (2 full-time employees, many students) and the many hundreds of volunteers that have participated – with approximately 300 currently active on more than 200 sites statewide. For more information about our program I invite you to check out our website (http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/ click on Watershed Watch). The site includes our monitoring manuals, as well as linkages to some of our partners. I’d also be happy to discuss our program to help answer the remainder of your questions.

To learn more about other similar programs I’d suggest checking out our website for the National Facilitation of Cooperative Extension Volunteer Monitoring – and especially the factsheet on Why Monitoring Makes Sense (http://www.uwex.edu/ces/csreesvolmon/).

Good luck,
Elizabeth Herron
URI Watershed Watch
Phone: 401-874-4552
Fax: 401-874-4561
Web: http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/

Question 2

Date: Mon, 23 May 2005 08:07:32 -0400
From: Joan Martin
Subject: RE:[volmonitor] How does your group make use of your data?

How do volunteer monitoring groups use their data? We have often heard
group leaders focusing on finding out how they can get the State or
other authority to “use” or accept their data, but that attitude seems
to us to omit the value that comes from making your own use of your
data.

We would be very interested in the methods that volunteer groups have of
using their data to protect their river or lake.

Thanks,
-Joan Martin
Huron River Watershed Council
(734) 769-5971

Question 2 Responses

Date: Mon, 23 May 2005 14:34:32 -0400
From: “Snyder, Cheryl”
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] How does your group make use of your data?
Joan and others,

I have responded to everyone since you all may find this information useful.

Data use and data users are probably the two most important topics that volunteer groups should address when setting up a monitoring program. I coordinate Pennsylvania DEP’s Citizens’ Volunteer Monitoring Program, and we strive to have groups monitor for their own reason and not necessarily to have DEP use the data. If the volunteers want to work with us to meet some of our needs, we will gladly do that. However, we stress the importance of developing a study design before actually monitoring so that the groups can determine why they are monitoring and what their goals are. Data use and data users should be addressed in the study design. This 10-step study design process addresses the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s and why’s of monitoring. The resulting study design (monitoring plan) can then be used to guide the group to meet their monitoring needs.

We have had a number of groups participate in some of our programs including our bacteria monitoring, watershed monitoring and lake monitoring programs and then move beyond the scope of our programs to pursue use of their data on their own. Other groups have attended study design workshops and then pursued data use on their own. Still others work with service providers to meet their needs. They all took the initiative to develop partnerships to reach their goals. Here are just a few examples of groups who took the next step and pursued data use on their own to protect water resources.

Watershed Associations have worked with their local municipalities to help monitor and protect local water resources including areas in the Poconos which is one of the fastest developing areas in Pennsylvania.

Two county Senior Environment Corps, developed in partnership with EASI, have pursued local data use. One partners with local watershed groups, the county conservation district and DEP to work on coal mining remediation projects. The second works with the City of Philadelphia by monitoring waterways for bacteria and helping the City pinpoint areas to check for leaking sanitary sewer lines that are contaminating the waterways.

A Watershed Association in southeastern Pennsylvania has worked in the Upper Chester Creek Partnership to monitor for bacteria. They have been instrumental in working with the local municipalities to investigate areas with high bacteria counts and to have local ordinances passed for dog waste pick-up in local parks.

A high school in southeastern Pennsylvania has taken part in our Watershed Snapshot event for seven years. This event is for education and awareness with the teacher keeping the data to check trends over the years. When a local Sportsmen’s Association was looking for background data to show stream improvements in order to petition the Fish and Boat Commission to stock the stream with trout, the data supported the request. The stream was stocked for the first time in 20 years.

A number of monitoring groups have used their monitoring data to petition the DEP for stream upgrades.

A lake association took part in our monitoring program in 2004 and have been inspired to take the next step. They are going to work with a consultant to develop a lake management plan to better manage and protect their lake.

I hope these examples give you an idea as to how volunteer monitoring groups use their own data to pursue watershed restoration and protection.

Thanks!!!

Cheryl Snyder

……………………………………………………………………………………..

Cheryl Snyder
DEP-Bureau of Watershed Management
Citizens’ Volunteer Monitoring Program Coordinator
717-772-5640
chesnyder@state.pa.us

 

Date: Mon, 23 May 2005 18:03:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: F5creeks@aol.com
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] How does your group make use of your data?

Re how groups use volunteer monitoring data:

Various watershed groups on the east side of San Francisco Bay, including my
group, Friends of Five Creeks, have used E. coli data to get sewer mains and
laterals repaired. Our local US EPA Region 9 lab will do the lab work if
volunteers sample for five weeks running using their protocol. For Friends of Five
Creeks, the same tests have detected chloramines (toxic to fish) that have led
to repairs of major drinking-water leaks. But these can be harder to trace —
we have hit a blind alley with one big leak of chloramines.

Basic information obtained by monitoring is important in setting restoration
goals, e.g. is a particular creek cold enough for trout? are there obvious
problems such as turbidity, or absence of the expected species of aquatic
macroinvertebrates?

With help from Balance Hydrologics, a local firm, we recently began putting
live readouts of flow, temperature, and conductivity from one of our creeks on
line (link via www.fivecreeks.org). Early use of this automated datalogger led
to a change in the way our local utility handles water-main breaks. The
current graphs vividly illustrate the flash-flood-like nature of urban runoff
(although our rainy season is almost over). This sort of information can be useful
in advocacy. We also expect these data to be useful to students in a variety
of projects. Patterns anomalous spikes, of course, would indicate something
worth investigating.

Susan Schwartz
Friends of Five Creeks
Albany, Berkeley, Kensington, & El Cerrito, California

Question 3

From: Brian Soenen [mailto:Brian.Soenen@dnr.state.ia.us]
S ent: Monday, November 07, 2005 12:55 PM
To: Volunteer water monitoring
Subject: [volmonitor] Volunteer Data Usage in 305(b) Reports and 303(d) Lists

Greetings!

Would any of you happen to have any examples of how volunteer data have been used by state and/or federal agencies for 305(b) reports or 303(d) lists? If so, I’d very much appreciate it if you could share them with me.

Thanks and have a great week!

Brian Soenen
IOWATER Coordinator
3625 Nebraska Street
Sioux City, IA 51104
515.205.8587 (cell)
Brian.Soenen@dnr.state.ia.us
www.iowater.net
www.iowaprojectaware.com

Responses to Question 3

11/7/2005 3:54:10 PM

In Minnesota we are in the process of using volunteer-collected transparency tube values to assess turbidity for the first time during production of the 2006 Impaired Waters list. A fact sheet on the process can be accessed at:

http://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/csmp-reports.html#forms

Let me know if you have any questions about this process.

Regards,

Laurie Sovell
Coordinator, Citizen Stream-Monitoring Program
MN Pollution Control Agency
520 Lafayette Rd. N.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651/296-7187 (phone)
651/297-8324 (fax)
laurie.sovell@pca.state.mn.us
http://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/csmp.html

 

11/7/2005 3:57:26 PM

The Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program’s data have been used for the State of NH’s reports. Steve Landry and I can provide further information to your questions if you wish to call or email us.

Michele L. Tremblay
naturesource communications
PO Box 3019 • Boscawen NH 03303
603.796.2615 • 796.2600 fax
http://www.naturesource.net

 

11/7/2005 4:11:41 PM

River Watch in CO–has our data in STORET and provides it to the State Health Dept for basin triennial reviews…when each major basin is up for CWA review of standards, classifications, resegmentation, etc..they put out a data request–we submit data there and also provide it via STORET. That data is used in assessing attainment for each triennial basin review, 305(b) and listing/delisting on the 303d. In each of these “report” formats the source of the data used is provided and our Program is cited. In some cases we have provided the only data there is, in others it adds to others database. The primary purpose of our program  is Colorado’s CWA decision process and targeted decision maker is the Health Dept–so our methods, data management, etc. all match what that process and those folks require.

Barb Horn
Biologist, Colorado Division of Wildlife
151 E. 16th Ave.
Durango, CO 81301
vc: 970/382-6667
fx: 970/247-4785

 

11/7/2005 4:23:12 PM

Volunteer data generated by organizations participating in the ODEQ’s Volunteer Monitoring Program is submitted to me for review and upload into the DEQ database LASAR http://deq12.deq.state.or.us/lasar2/default.aspx. All data of sufficient quality (designated as A or B) is assessed for the 303(d) list regardless of the sampling agency.

Steve Hanson
Volunteer Monitoring Specialist
Oregon DEQ Laboratory
Phone: 503.229.5449
Toll Free: 1.800.452.4011
Fax: 503.229.6957
email: hanson.steve@deq.state.or.us
2020 SW Fourth Ave. Suite 400
Portland, OR 97201

 

Date: Mon, 07 Nov 2005 16:58:00 -0500
From: “Picotte, Amy”
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Volunteer Data Usage in 305(b) Reports and 303(d)
Lists

Brian, check out Appendix F in our new Vermont Volunteer Surface Water
Monitoring Guide. Good luck.
http://www.vtwaterquality.org/lakes/htm/lp_monitoringguide.htm

 

Amy Picotte
Environmental Analyst
DEC-Water Quality Division
103 S. Main St.
Waterbury, VT 05671-0408
Tel. 802-241-3789
fax. 802-241-4537

New email as of July, 2005:
Amy.Picotte@state.vt.us

 

11/8/2005 8:39:37 AM

Our volunteer data has been published in the Delaware 305(b) for the last 10 years. We monitor and collect data on specific watersheds – Christina Watershed since 1995 and the Mispillion Watershed since 2003. I am happy to give more information or send our manual and/or QAPP for this program.

Ginger North
Stream Watch Coordinator
Delaware Nature Society
302-239-2334×100
Fax 302-239-2473
ginger@delawarenaturesociety.org
www.delawarenaturesociety.org

 

11/8/2005 9:22:54 AM

I was forwarded your e-mail regarding the use of volunteer monitoring data in 305(b)/303(d) assessments and listing. To my knowledge, all four of our Basin states (NJ, NY, PA and DE) put out a call for data prior to beginning their assessment work each cycle, in order to compile “all readily available” data as EPA requires.

If you haven’t already done so, you may wish to contact Pennsylvania DEP. They came to my mind when I thought about formal processes for using volunteer data. Because of quality assurance and control needs, they have a fairly developed processes for handling this. Take a look at the form they use and the requirements therin. The address is:

http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/watermgt/Wqp/WQStandards/wqstandards.htm

In particular, see the link under “2004 Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report” Section III.E. Outside Agency Data and Quality Assurance Requirements. The link will open up a Microsoft Word document. The link above that, II.C., provides more guidance on volunteer quality assurance plans and a further link to EPA on that topic.

I hope this information is useful for you. Good luck!

Jon Zangwill

Jonathan.Zangwill@drbc.state.nj.us

 

11/8/2005 4:08:03 PM

The Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet has a published guidance for use of “third party data” for regulatory purposes, including that generated by volunteers and citizen monitors. You can see a copy of that policy in PDF form at:

http://www.water.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/B8F9FC52-D32F-4FBB-9CC0-9C6945CE5A8A/0/volunteer_monitoring_data_final.pdf

(If the link doesn’t work, be sure you paste the entire URL into your browser address bar)

Essentially it articulates a prior notification procedure and requires that those requesting that their data be used for 303d/305b determinations to meet US EPA Quality Assurance Project Planning requirements.

For more information on how volunteer groups in our state have responded to that policy, visit:

http://kywater.org/watch/qa.htm

Thanks,

Ken Cooke
KY Water Watch
Ken.Cooke@ky.gov

 

11/9/2005 9:00:32 AM

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection uses data from at least one volunteer monitoring organization for its Integrated Report, and has incorporated volunteer monitoring into its long term strategy. New York State has also relied for a long time on data collected by volunteer monitors. I’d be happy to supply you with the appropriate contacts in NJDEP and NYSDEC, although I’m sure that some folks, who are also on this listserv will respond in person.

Paula Zevin
Regional Volunteer Monitoring Coordinator
Division of Environmental Science and Assessment
U.S.E.P.A. – Region 2
2890 Woodbridge Avenue, MS-220
Edison, NJ 08837
Tel.: (732) 321-4456
Fax: (732) 321-6616
zevin.paula@epa.gov

 

11/9/2005 11:34:41 AM

As it happens I just completed an index to past issues of the Volunteer Monitor newsletter (www.epa.gov/owow/volunteer/vm_index.html). This should help you track down some examples of volunteer data usage in 305(b) and 303(d). I’m sure this is not a comprehensive list even of examples that have appeared in the newsletter, because I didn’t index every single mention of any topic, just the more important articles. Still, it may be helpful.

Ellie

Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112

 

11/9/2005 5:05:43 PM

Awhile back I came across this report from Minnesota – thought you might find it relevant.

http://www.riversmn.org/Reports_Thalweg/ttube04.pdf

Steven Witmer
Planning Assistant
Community Development Department
City of Johnston
(515) 727-7765, fax 515-278-2033

 

11/10/2005 7:12:15 AM

As Paula suggested, volunteer monitoring data has been part of the 305(b) and 303(d) process for many years in New York State.  There was a session at the 6th national volunteer monitoring conference (I believe in Austin) that discussed the role of volunteers in TMDL development- mostly in developing the datasets to support the 303d lists.  The abstracts from those presentations can be found athttp://www.epa.gov/owow/volunteer/proceedings/sixth/session6.pdf

Feel free to contact me at any of the below numbers if you would like more information about the role of volunteer data in NYS.

Scott A. Kishbaugh, P.E.
Environmental Engineer II
Lake Services Section
Bureau of Water Assessment and Management
NYSDEC Division of Water
625 Broadway, 4th Floor
Albany, NY  12233-3502
(phone) 518-402-8282
(fax) 518-402-9029
(email) sakishba@gw.dec.state.ny.us

 

11/10/2005 7:29:06 AM

For lotic systems in NYS any data or survey assessment conducted by volunteers or otherwise will not be used in the 303(d) process for impairment determination. This has been stated to volunteer groups both verbally and in writing:

“The fact is, no matter how good the data volunteers – or anyone else – collects, it is DEC’s role to evaluate the data and make an assessment that is consistent with assessments throughout the state. (Actually, this issue relates to the discussions we’ve been having about the details of the “How data is Used” matrix in the guidance document…and why we have balked at suggestions that volunteer data alone could result in “yellow” and “red” flags.)

While we encourage participation in the assessment process (thru the WI/PWL workshops and update effort) we cannot relinquish DEC’s responsibility for making the w.q. determinations.

In short, the role of volunteer monitoring is to provide data of a known quality to help DEC make these decisions. However, it is DEC’s (not volunteers’) role to make the assessment decisions.”

Kelly

HBRW@worldnet.att.net

 

11/11/2005 7:28:46 PM

Our citizen monitoring data was used in the recent State 303d listing.

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/tmdl/303d_update.html

On the plus side, our data was used to call attention to several parameters on a few creeks which had not previously been on the 303d list, and was used in various places as lines of evidence for some of the conclusions they made.

On the negative side, we feel the data was used inappropriately in a few places, including to de-list a creek for sediment based on our turbidity data.

Several groups up here are concerned about the proposed de-listing of the Laguna de Santa Rosa for nutrients. We will be submitting P and N data on that point.

I am working on a letter of comments, since the comment period is currently open. At the SYRCL conference I asked around if others had submitted data to this 303d list. No one had, but DeltaKeeper had influenced a bacteria listing in the Central Valley, and Friends of Five Creeks in Nevada County had influenced a 303d listing on the Yuba River. Those were both done through meetings directly with SWRCB staff in Sacramento, not through the formal submittal process.

Take care,

Mike Sandler
Program Coordinator
Community Clean Water Institute
6741 Sebastopol Ave. Suite 140
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 824-4370
www.ccwi.org

 

11/12/2005 8:15:48 AM

Regarding use of volunteer water monitoring data for 303d and 305 lists, suggest you email with Dr. Bill Deutsch. I am cc’ing him so you can capture his email address. Bill started and is the current director of the Alabama Water Watch Program.  This program is about 13 years old and is particially funded by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Bryan Burgess
burgessbe@alltel.net

 

11/14/2005 6:31:54 AM

I was forwarded an request regarding how some states may use volunteer data in 305(b) reports. Here in CT we have at a variety of different levels. If you would like to call me to discuss feel free. 860-424-4185.

Mike Beauchene
CT DEP
Bureau of Water Management
mike.beauchene@po.state.ct.us

 

11/14/2005 9:01:44 AM

URI Watershed Watch monitoring data is used by the State of RI in their 305b (State of State WQ) report as on par with professional data and is thus used as a basis for listing in 303d (impaired waters). Often the RI DEM staff will call us to discuss the results of our data with them to determine, for example, if we think a lake is naturally acidified or not.

RI DEM contributes funding to our Extension based program. They provide us with an annual list of lakes with no, little, or not-recent data. We do our best to recruit volunteers to monitor those locations.

For the water,

Linda
URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
Department of Natural Resources Science
1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804
401-874-2905
www.uri.edu/ce/wq/
www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer

 

11/15/2005 1:22:44 PM

I know I am responding to everyone, I think many are interested. Paula Zevin already hit on this but here is more info.

Pequannock River Coalition monitors water within the Pequannock and Wanaque Rivers watersheds. Three parameters are measured: temperature, flow and physical characteristics. The data is collected by volunteers and has been used by the NJDEP and local environmental groups for a variety of applications. The NJDEP has used the data for development of the Integrated List (formerly known as the 303(d) and 305(b) reports). The data has also been used for prioritization of local open space acquisitions and determination of local land use issues.

http://www.pequannockriver.org/

The Pequannock River Coalition’s temperature monitoring program actually even “changed the way the state did assessments”. By that I mean, prior to PRC’s monitoring program, NJ had no such term as “temperature impairment”. Because of this, there was not way to “take action” or regulate temperature impairments. Now because of Ross’s program the State now “lists” waters that exceed standards and we have TMDL’s develop specifically for Temp Impairments.

Please let me know if you’d like more info.

 

Danielle Donkersloot

Danielle.Donkersloot@dep.state.nj.us

Question 4

Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2005 17:14:46 -0800
From: Amie Frisch
Subject: [volmonitor] volunteer data – the bad side

Hello!

I am a San Jose State University student writing a research paper on the use of volunteer collected scientific/water quality data. I have done tons of research, and have come up with quite a few studies that find either, ‘volunteer collected data is great’ or ‘volunteer collected data is great as long as you don’t make the mistakes we made’. Clearly volunteer data is both highly useful and widely used. However, many of the studies also say something like, ‘many scientists/governments question the quality of volunteer collected data’. None of these statements are expanded on or cited. I would like to include both sides of this issue in my paper.

So, here is my question: Do you know of or are you a part of a government agency that refuses to use volunteer collected data? If so, what are the reasons for that? Or, what are your biggest concerns or problems with trying to get your volunteer collected data used by government agencies?

If you respond, please be sure to include your first and last name, and what group/agency you work for so that I can cite you in my paper.

Thanks!!!

Responses to Question 4

Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2005 22:30:34 -0500
From: Rita Jack
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] volunteer data – the bad side

Training, training, training – and respect for their abilities. If volunteers are properly trained, including being tested to make sure they understand and are following procedures fully, then their data are as robust as any “professional”. I don’t live there – but I’ve heard lots about their program – the state of Missouri’s Stream Teams are probably among the best trained volunteers in the country, and they use 4 levels of certification for their volunteers. I understand that levels 3 and 4 are certified to do enforcement monitoring. Contact Angel and Tom Kruzen there, or Scott Dye.
I do know that the more that volunteers know, and the more their data are used for high-level decisions, the more motivated they are to do a very thorough and valid job. Put them through rigorous training, test them, have them develop a QAPP with assistance and guidance – and you’ll get darn good data out of them. Be lackadaisical about training and how their data are used – and their results will reflect that.
I’ve seen that volunteer water monitors will rise to the level that is required of them, depending on the needs of the waters at risk that they are monitoring.
-Rita
>>
Rita Jack
Water Sentinels Project, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
tel: 517-484-2372

 

Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 06:12:25 -0500

From: Simon L Gruber
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] volunteer data – the bad side

Amie,

In response to your question on the listserve: I am an environmental planning consultant in Orange County, NY, and I’m managing a stream monitoring project (using benthic macroinvertebrates as indicators) for the OC Water Authority, a county agency. While our project does not involve collection of data by volunteers except as part of educational workshops (ie., data collected by volunteer trainees is not being used to analyze water quality in our reports) the contractor that is collecting and analyzing all our samples is a non-profit organization, Hudson Basin River Watch, that does a lot of volunteer monitoring work including training. We are following the methodology of the NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation’ Stream Biomonitoring Unit in all our work, and the contractor is a professional who knows this method well. In the course of this project, we’ve learned that a) the NY State DEC’s official policy seems to be that they won’t use any data collected by anyone other than agency staff, at least not in the same ways that they use their own data; b) in fact, they do pay some attention to information submitted by outside agencies and by citizens. I believe the reasoning behind this is that when they write official reports, they can only stand behind data collected by their own staff. But they can, and I believe sometimes do, consider outside data and follow up on it by doing their own sampling. If you want, I can get more information from agency staff about their policies and practices (and even put you in touch with them) if you contact me off the list.

One telling example: Years ago, a local citizen who lives on the Woodbury Creek, a trout stream, saw that trout were spawning in the Creek. (This was not necessarily organized monitoring, but conceptually the point is somewhat similar). Told of this, DEC staff did a stream survey and confirmed that trout were spawning, which resulted in 1) a planned wastewater discharge into the creek being abandoned, and 2) the stream’s classification being upgraded.

Beyond that, I have not personally addressed this issue because we are not currently focusing on trying to use volunteer’s data. However, I do believe that if a consensus policy could be developed so that volunteers knew that their data would be used by government agencies, it would provide a strong incentive to motivate more people to do volunteer monitoring.

Simon Gruber
Environmental Services
sgruber@frontiernet.net

 

Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 09:49:10 -0500
From: Linda Green
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] volunteer data – the bad side

We all have stories. My favorite was the professional consultants under contract to the state for a stormwater monitoring program. We kept prepping to receive their samples for lab analysis, wondering where they were until they told us that they were only going to collect samples weekdays 9-5 and were waiting for a storm to come during that time.

Training and more training and having folks understand exactly why they must follow the steps is key. My favorite volunteer query was from the man who asked if he had if he had to follow the steps in the instruction manual in order, since I hadn’t so specified. I couldn’t help but ask him if he had ever baked a cake. And I have added to our instruction manual the admonition “Please follow the steps in the order that they are written”

Linda

URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
Department of Natural Resources Science
1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804
401-874-2905
www.uri.edu/ce/wq/
www.usawaterquality.org/volunteer

 

: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 15:52:53 -0600
From: Angie Becker Kudelka
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] volunteer data – the bad side

Amie,
In 2002 Rivers Council of Minnesota and River Network conducted research on the effectiveness of citizen monitoring in Minnesota, a published our findings in, “An Evaluation of Citizen Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring in Minnesota.” In it, we conducted in-depth studies with 40 citizen monitoring groups, local governments and 15 representatives from state agencies. We found that citizens are often dedicated to collecting data – but a major barrier exists in the pathway from data collection to data use. In my research of other monitoring programs around the country, this seems to be a common theme.

The report can be found on our website: http://www.riversmn.org/resources_citmon.html#MonArtNews (its the third story down, and as links to the executive summary, full report, and appendices.)

Chapter 5: Survey Design and Results, discusses the survey and includes areas that may help -such as intended data use, and barriers to citizen monitoring at the local and state level – which you are welcome to cite that info as part of your research paper, if its what your looking for. Best Wishes,
-Angie

Angie Becker Kudelka
River Watch Director
Rivers Council of Minnesota
Home Office:
817 South Minnesota St.
New Ulm, MN 56073
Phone: 507-359-3851

 

On 11/17/05, Kris Stepenuck wrote:
Amie

Although I would definitely NOT say data are refused by the Dept. of Natural Resources here in WI (our citizen lakes data are used by the Dept. regularly), our volunteer stream monitors’ data are not generally used by the Dept. of Natural Resources in making management decisions. That is because the program is designed to be educational and therefore the methods the volunteers use and the monitoring plan that the volunteers follow are not the same as DNR methods and not rigorous enough to get a good picture of water quality in streams – since streams are so dynamic. (So for instance, volunteers can monitor whenever they choose, there is not a set time of day or cyclic period during which they monitor. If they were asked to monitor at a certain time of day and on a specific frequency using DNR approved protocols and WA procedures, data would be able to be used on a regular basis. Occasionally stream monitors’ data have been used by the Dept. when the project’s monitoring sampling design was laid out in order to address a specific question and the monitoring followed that design. We (the Department of Natural Resouces) are in the process of planning a higher level program that will allow for citizen generated data to be entered directly into DNR database and be used for management decisions.

Kris Stepenuck

 

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 08:26:13 -0600
From: Donna Menown
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] volunteer data – the bad side

Since Missouri’s use of Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program data was mentioned earlier by Rita Jack, I thought it appropriate for Missouri Stream Team staff to clarify a few things. First, Rita, thank you so much for your kind portrayal of our program. You are sure right about the citizen volunteers. They are the heart and soul of the program and they deserve the credit for sure!

Although we value our volunteer monitors and they are an integral part of our understanding of the biological and chemical properties in our Missouri streams, we do not use volunteer-collected data for
enforcement cases. We only use data collected by our DNR professional staff for enforcement cases since the person collecting the samples may be required to testify as a professional in court.

The Missouri Volunteer program has 4 levels of certification but none of this data is used directly in enforcement cases. Volunteer collected data is primarily used to supplement agency-collected data and is used as screening data. Data from Levels 2, 3 and 4 are used to help decide where more
focused monitoring by DNR staff may be needed because it identifies emerging problems.

Hope this clears up any misunderstanding of how Missouri uses volunteer data. Thanks again. Being on this list serve and reading about the diverse and wonderful efforts going on across the country is nothing short of inspirational.

Donna Menown
Stream Team Volunteer WQ Monitoring Coord.
& TMDL Developer
Div. of Env. Quality/Water Protection Program
MO Dept. of Natural Resources, Jeff. City
(573) 526-1595; FAX [522-9920]
e-mail: Donna.Menown@dnr.mo.gov

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