those standards. Ideally, all these activities are encompassed and coordinated under the umbrella of a holistic ambient water quality monitoring program, described in the next section. However, given resource constraints, the approaches currently used in most states to list impaired waters fall short of this ideal. In recognition of these constraints, the committee recommends changes to the TMDL program that would make the lists more accurate over the short and long terms. In addition, this chapter includes discussion on identifying waters to be assessed, defining measurable criteria for water quality standards, and interpreting monitoring results for making the listing (and delisting) decision.
The demands of an ambient-focused water quality management program, such as the TMDL program, require changing current approaches toward monitoring and assessment and subsequent decision-making. In many states, administrative performance measures (e.g., number of TMDLs developed, number of permits issued, and timeliness of actions) have been the principal measure of program effectiveness ( Box 3-1). Such administrative measures are important, but reliance on such measures diverts attention and resources away from environmental indicators of waterbody condition—the principal measures of effectiveness and success. Rather, information for decision-making should be based on carefully collected and interpreted monitoring data (Karr and Dudley, 1981; Yoder, 1997; Yoder and Rankin, 1998). The committee recognizes that state ambient monitoring programs have multiple objectives beyond the TMDL program (e.g., 305b reports, trends and loads assessments, and other legal requirements), which are not addressed in this report. It is suggested that to make efficient use of resources, states evaluate the extent to which their present ambient monitoring programs are coordinated and collectively satisfy their objectives.
Ambient monitoring and assessment begins with the assignment of appropriate designated uses for waterbodies and measurable water quality criteria that can be used to determine use attainment (EPA, 1995a). The criteria, which may include biological, chemical, and physical measures, define the types of data to be collected and assessed. In response to the Government Performance and Results Act, the EPA Office of Water has developed national indicators for surface waters (EPA, 1995a) and a conceptual framework for using environmental information in decision-making (EPA, 1995b). EPA's Office of Research and Development