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Appendix A Interim Report cod

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102 Dr. Dallas C. Peek Director, U.S. Geological Survey The National Center Reston, Virginia 22092 Dear Dr. Peek: NAWQA Pilot Program NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCL WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD 2101 Constirudon Avenue Washington, D.C. 20418 (202) 334-3422 September 25, 1989 fax (202) 33~520 We are pleased to transmit ten copies of an interim report by the Committee to Review the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (hIAWQA) pilot program. As you know, the committee was requested to review the technical aspects of the program, as currently being developed by USGS, and to consider ways of improving it. The committee was also requested to review the program's potential usefulness for establishing and evaluating national policies and activities concerning water quality. The committee is scheduled to provide a final report on its review of the NAWQA pilot program by April 1990. This report is submitted to provide the USGS with a summary of the committee's evaluations to date. In general, on the basis of our review the committee is convinced that a national-scale, long-term water quality assessment is in the best interest of the country. Additionally, we believe that the USGS is well qualified to implement the proposed NAWQA program because it is a nonregulatory agency and because of its ability to undertake the long-term commitment necessary for such a program to be successful. The USGS has an excellent reputation in performing its water quality data collection programs at the national, state, and local levels. This attribute will be important when it comes to cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies. Thus, the committee recommends that the NAWQA program continue to be developed by the USGS. Special attention should be given to resolving the question of performing the necessary biological monitoring, such as cooperating with the academic community and other appropriate government agencies. The committee sincerely appreciates the constructive working relationship that has developed with the USGS in its review of the NAWQA pilot program. The committee members look forward to continuing their work and issuing a final review document in l 990. Sincerely, ~.t~) ~ Richard S. Engelbreeht, Chairman Committee to Review the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Pilot Program cc: P. Cohen, Chief Hydrologist The .Vat~o`; 9rs OCR for page 101
Appendix A 103 September 25, 1989 REVIEW OF THE USGS NATIONAL WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT PILOT PROGRAM INTERIM REPORT OF THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL In 1987 the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) requested that the National Research Council's (NRC) Water Science and Tech- nology Board assemble a committee to review its National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) pilot program. The committee was appointed by the NRC in 1988 and has met four times. In addition, various committee members have made site visits to five of seven pilot study areas to discuss the program with local officials and researchers as well as with USGS personnel directly involved in the sampling and data collection program. The committee is scheduled to provide a final report on its review of the NAWQA program by April 1990. This interim report is submitted by the committee to provide the USGS with a sum- mary of its evaluation to date and mid-course advice. In this interim report, the committee has focused on an overall review of the general concept of a national water quality assessment program--its usefulness to the nation, and whether or not it should be carried out by an agency such as the USGS. Only in this context has the committee had occasion to address the question of implementation. Thus, a more detailed analysis of the technical aspects of NAWQA, such as the frequency of the sampling program, or the chemical constituents to be measured, has yet to be performed by the committee. The committee was asked to review the technical aspects of NAWQA and to consider ways of improving the program, as designed by the USGS. It was also requested to review the program's potential usefulness for establishing and evaluating national policies. Additionally, the committee has considered the program's usefulness to state, interstate, local, and private en- tities for making decisions affecting water resources and ad- vancing the scientific understanding of water quality. As stated in USGS Circular 1021, "Concepts for a National Water-Quality Assessment Program," the goals of the NAWQA program are as follows: 1. Provide a nationally consistent description of current water quality conditions for a large part of the nation's water resources;

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104 NAWQA Pilot Program 2. Define long-term trends (or lack of trends) in water quality; and 3. Identify, describe, and explain, as possible, the major factors that affect observed water quality conditions and trends. The information should be obtained on a continuing basis and made available in a timely manner to water managers, policy- makers, and the public. Such continual, timely information should provide an improved scientific basis for evaluating the effectiveness of water quality management programs and for predicting the likely effects of contemplated changes in land use and water management practices. To address the potential usefulness of a full-scale NAWQA program, the committee members (in small teams) visited five of the seven pilot site study areas, including the Carson River Basin, Upper Illinois River Basin, Yakima River Basin, Kentucky River Basin, and Central Oklahoma Aquifer. Through these site visits, the committee gained insight into the NAWQA program from the state and local users of the data being generated and collated by the USGS. All the visiting teams agreed that the pilot projects were valuable studies for their respective regions. The committee also reviewed sample reports or products of the type that would be published as a result of NAWQA. Since other water quality monitoring efforts are ongoing or planned within the state and federal governments, the committee interviewed representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Depart- ment of the Environment, the Association of State-Interstate Water Pollution Control Agencies, the Soil Conservation Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Interstate Conference on Water Policy to obtain their views concerning the usefulness of the NAWQA program to national, state, and local needs for water quality information. Represen- tatives of the Department of Interior's Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget also participated in several meetings. On the basis of the information provided by the representa- tives of these organizations, it was clear that the USGS enjoys an excellent reputation among potential NAWQA users at all levels-- national, state, and local. Several state agencies even indicated that any water quality data provided by the USGS would have greater credibility than data collected by their own agencies.

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Appendix A 105 The USGS obviously has a proven track record of providing reliable and useful information through its water programs such as the National Stream-Quality Accounting Network, the Regional Aquifer-System Analysis program, and the Hydrologic Benchmark program. There was a general consensus among those associated with state and local agencies having respon- sibility for water quality that the information to be provided by NAWQA would be extremely valuable; in fact, in a few instances it was reported that the information available through the pilot studies had already proven useful. In addition, it was pointed out, and the committee agrees, that there are certain inherent advantages to having a non- regulatory agency collect, analyze, and interpret NAWQA-type data; e.g., it may be unrealistic to expect a regulatory agency such as EPA to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of its own water regulatory programs and expenditures. Most of the agency representatives did not see any serious duplication between NAWQA and other water quality data gathering efforts but cautioned that care should be exercised to avoid any such situa- tion. In this sense, the committee agrees with the agency repre- sentatives that there should be as much cooperation and coordi- nation among the different water quality monitoring programs as possible and appropriate. One identified area of potential cooperation among agencies was biomonitoring, i.e., the collection of biological data. Some of the agency representatives expressed doubt as to whether NAWQA, as currently designed, will be able to elucidate cause-effect relationships to the degree necessary to effectively predict future water quality problems. However, there was a general consensus that the USGS has the ability to undertake the long-term commitment necessary for a NAWQA-type program to be successful. The data and information generated by the NAWQA program should be able to be made available to state and local agencies and to private industry in a timely and cost-effective way. NEED FOR A LONG-TERM WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT The committee believes there is a genuine need for a long- term, large-scale national assessment of water quality in the United States. Human health and environmental health are inextricably linked to our nation's water quality. As our popu-

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106 NAWQA Pilot Program ration grows and our water resources become more intensively developed, and indeed stressed, water quality becomes a more important component of our political, economic, social, and environmental decision-making. Such decision-making cannot proceed without adequate information and understanding. The committee frames the term "assessment of water quality" in the following context. Sound decision-making requires that problem areas be identified before they reach crisis proportions, that they be evaluated carefully and fairly to improve or protect water quality, and that information be gathered and under- standing be developed from analysis and interpretation of data. The committee defines "assessment" as being directed toward these goals, rather than being directed toward assuring com- pliance with a regulation or statute, or toward detecting the presence of known contaminants. Therefore, an essential com- ponent of an assessment should focus on cause-effect relation- ships. Long-term assessment is important for several reasons. First, the physical, chemical, and biological processes that affect water quality on and below the surface of the earth are extra- ordinarily complex and are not completely understood. Thus, any assessment of the state of water quality must evolve over time, as our understanding and data bases increase. It is dif- ficult to imagine a static, one-time assessment that would have lasting value. Second, the processes affecting water quality take place over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales. For example, ground water flow rates are very small, and a "snap- shot," or even several snapshots closely spaced in time, would provide relatively little information about change. Similarly, the impacts of global climatic change on water quality are likely to occur on time scales of decades. On the other hand, mixing processes in mountain streams are very rapid, so that a single sample, or even a few samples, could easily miss important events. In either case, a long-term assessment would be more likely to detect many important aspects of the status of water quality in the United States. ~ . Currently, there is no reliable national assessment of U.S. water quality trends. Thus, a large-scale national assessment is clearly warranted. Many important water quality decisions are made at the national level, and federal taxes support many water quality activities. In addition, because of the complexity and spatial diversity of water quality issues, a national-level aggrega- tion and integration would be invaluable in maximizing infor-

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Appendix A 107 mation gained from local experience. Furthermore, there are, in varying degrees, inconsistencies between data sets gathered for local or regional purposes. Collecting consistent data and care- fully aggregating available data would be of significant value both in identifying and evaluating national issues and in trans- ferring information and understanding from one region or locality to another. Finally, while there is much completed and ongoing research focusing on cause-effect water quality relation- ships, this research tends to be directed toward small-scale (often laboratory-scale) issues. We know little about the behavior of large systems, such as entire river basins or aquifer systems. Therefore, a national assessment is a particularly timely under- taking. COMMITTEE'S EVALUATION OF SPECIFIC PROGRAM COMPONENTS Integration of Surface Water/Ground Water Study Units The original NAWQA program plan specified 120 separate planned surface water and ground water study areas or units. This approach hac! the potential for minimizing the important linkages between surface and ground water systems. During committee meetings, the committee informed the USGS that these linkages are important in determining water quality, as some results from the Lower Kansas River Basin pilot project indicate. In recognition of the important water quality implications of surface water/ground water interaction, the USGS decided in March 1989 to redefine the study units. The study units include river basins in which the focus of attention is on surface water quality and aquifer systems in which the focus of attention is on ground water quality. The study units range from a few thou- sand to several tens of thousands of square miles in area. The committee is pleased to see that plans for the full program now contain 60 integrated surface water/ground water study units. The committee believes that this new approach is better and will result in an improved product. However, since the integrated study unit concept represents a new approach, it needs further development (e.g., refinement of new study unit boundaries). The USGS must also determine how the results from the inte- grated units will be "scaled up" to make national inferences. It may be that the integrated approach will make this task much easier.

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108 National Coordinating Work Groups NA WQA Pilot Program The National Coordinating Work Groups serve as liaisons to the NAWQA program. Group members represent federal, state, and local agencies. This liaison helps to ensure that many diverse interests and needs will be considered in the NAWQA program. The coordinating groups also serve to generate local support and enthusiasm for the program. The committee's five pilot site visits confirmed these facts. Liaison committee mem- bers were generally supportive of the NAWQA program. They were enthusiastic not only about the purely scientific aspects of the program, but also about the effect of the program in fostering communication, cooperation, and understanding among agencies (federal and nonfederal). A shortcoming in the composition of the current liaison committees is the lack of private industry representation. Given private industry's role in creating, identifying, and solving water quality problems, it should be more strongly represented on the liaison committees. Such representation would enhance the value of the liaison committees to the USGS and promote cooperation and understanding between the public and private sectors. Since the importance of private industry vis-a-vis water quality issues and problems would vary from study area to study area, in- dustrial representation would vary according to local importance. Retrospective Analyses Collection and analysis of existing data are important aspects of any study. The NAWQA program includes a retrospective analysis of existing data and information as an integral part of its total study; each study unit program will perform such an analysis. These analyses are invaluable for a number of reasons. First, the USGS will collect, synthesize, archive, and assess the quality of large amounts of information that have been collected by many organizations over many years. This effort alone will be invaluable to the many users of water quality information (e.g., government agencies as well as private industry). Second, the expertise of the USGS in interpreting the existing data will be critical to understanding the hydrologic, geologic, physico- chemical, and biological processes operating in each study unit. Third, the analysis of existing data may delineate water quality trends that could influence the sampling efforts of the local NAWQA projects and identify existing or potential water quality problems that need attention from agencies or private industry.

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Appendix A 109 The retrospective analyses provide a first step in developing local, regional, and national water quality data bases and demon- strate the need for long-term data bases to define significant trends. Biology The weakness of the NAWQA program in addressing the biological aspects of water quality cannot be overstated. The committee has conveyed this during committee meetings to the USGS many times in the course of its review. Attention to biological aspects of water quality has not traditionally been one of the strong points of the USGS. The committee is concerned that the agency may not have adequate numbers of qualified personnel to implement the program on a national scale. Some committee members believe that the USGS may have to rely on other agencies (e.g., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and perhaps the academic community for expertise in biology. Other com- mittee members believe that the USGS should ultimately develop in-house expertise and facilities in this area. Special attention should be given to resolving the question of how to perform the necessary biological monitoring, such as by cooperating with the academic community and other appropriate government agencies. However, because a consensus on this issue has not been reached, it will be discussed more fully at future committee meetings. Coordination In order to prevent needless duplication and to take ad- vantage of other work in progress, the NAWQA program should be coordinated with ongoing programs of other agencies (e.g., EPA activities under the Safe Drinking Water Act). Coordi- nation is always going to be a major challenge. The USGS must remain vigilant for and take advantage of, as appropriate, not only activities already in existence, but also those activities in the planning stages, such as EPA's proposed Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program. NAWQA should also be coordinated with existing programs such as the Fish and Wildlife Service's National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program, the Great Lakes International Fish Contaminant Monitoring Pro- gram, NOAA's program on environmental quality of coastal waters, and NOAA's tissue banking program.

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110 National Synthesis NAWQA Pilot Program The program documentation is vague on how the information from the study units will be "scaled up" to the national level so that a national synthesis can be accomplished. Will the national aspect of NAWQA arise simply from the fact that the 60 study units represent most of the nation? Or will the results from the individual study units be presented in some fashion such that national water quality trends will be evident and national in- ferences can be drawn? Is the study unit scale large enough to address national issues and yet small enough to consider local and regional considerations? These important aspects of NAWQA need additional thought and will be addressed by the committee in its final report. Characterization of Cause-Effect Relationships and Sources The program is unclear as to how cause-effect relationships will be approached. This is a critical issue for the NAWQA program. Is the study unit scale small enough to resolve cause- effect issues? For example, the effects of land use on both surface and ground water quality are important and must be quantified to a greater degree than is currently being done in some of the pilot studies. To what degree will simulation modeling be used to articulate and quantify cause-effect relationships? In general, the NAWQA program is vague with regard to the question of the characterization of contaminant sources. The USGS should give more attention to how it will analyze the data with respect to determining cause-effect rela- tionships. Temporal Considerations There are several unique characteristics of the NAWQA program that might loosely be referred to as "temporal considera- tions." For a given study unit, current plans call for five years of intensive data collection followed by four years of less inten- sive data collection activity (the "on/off" approach). The USGS believes that the four-year off period will afford its scientists time to assimilate and interpret data collected during the five years of intensive sampling. During the off time, the USGS will also assess the efficacy of the intensive sampling program so that necessary modifications can be effected for the next sampling

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Appendix A 111 period. The off period may also provide time to pursue spin-off studies, perhaps funded wholly or partially by interested state, local, regional, or other federal agencies. Such studies could also be "seeded" with NAWQA funds. University researchers and their graduate students may be used during this time to help _ track new issues and pursue spin-off studies. The on/off approach for data collection and evaluation is one aspect of the study design yet to be fully considered by the committee. It may be of more value to have data collection, analysis and interpretation, and experimentation proceed simul- taneously, together with continuous interaction and feedback among these different elements. Without an analytical and conceptual framework, data collection may lack direction. Conversely, without appropriate and reliable data, the analyses may lack reality and therefore have little practical value. The committee intends to pursue this matter as it looks more closely at the NAWQA study design. As previously stated, the long-term nature of the proposed program is essential. Patterns and trends will not necessarily emerge over the short term. This is especially true in ground water systems, where water quality trends evolve more slowly than in surface water systems. Since NAWQA is not to be a "plume-chasing" program, short-term monitoring of ground water systems might not produce meaningful results. The fact that a single agency with no regulatory or enforcement bias will be performing long-term monitoring helps to ensure consistency, quality control, and quality assurance. Indeed, these latter characteristics are major NAWQA program strengths. CONCLUSIONS The committee is convinced that a national-scale, long-term water quality assessment is in the best interest of the country. In addition, the committee believes that the USGS is well quali- fied to implement the proposed NAWQA program because of the agency's ability to undertake the long-term commitment neces- sary for a NAWQA-type program to be successful. It is also preferable that the agency to carry out this type of program be nonregulatory. The USGS has an excellent reputation in performing its water quality data collection programs at the national, state, and local levels. This will be important when it comes to cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies. Thus, the com-

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112 NAWQA Pilot Program mittee recommends that the NAWQA program continue to be developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Special attention should be given to resolving the question of performing the necessary biological monitoring, such as cooperating with the academic community and other appropriate government agencies. NEXT STEPS As is apparent from this interim report, committee delibera- tions to date have concentrated on an evaluation of the concep- tual framework of NAWQA and its utility. In the future, the committee's evaluations of these aspects of the program will continue with greater attention to details of the study design and anticipated interpretative products. For example, the com- mittee plans to consider in greater detail the design for integra- tion of ground and surface water studies within the study units. the personnel structure envisioned to perform the national synthesis, the ability of the program to identify nationally important cause-effect relationships, and the frequency of the sampling program, i.e., the on/off approach. Further aspects of program review include a consideration of the choice of chemical constituents to be determined and the analytical methods and levels of precision obtained with those methods. Committee to Review the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Pilot Program Richard S. Engelbrecht (Chairman), University of Illinois K. C. Bishop, III, Chevron U.S.A., Inc., San Francisco Sandra L. Blackstone, University of Denver College of Law Michael E. Campana, University of New Mexico Margaret Conditt, Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati Robert C. Cooper, University of California David L. Freyberg, Stanford University James Geraghty, Geraghty & Miller, Inc., Tampa Judith L. Meyer, University of Georgia Donald J. O'Connor, Manhattan College Susan Stafford, Oregon State University James Heaney (Ex-officio), University of Florida Kenneth Potter (Ex-officio), University of Wisconsin Sheila D. David, NRC Staff Officer Anita Hall, Project Secretary