A Proposal for a National Monitoring Network

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) [Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality (SWAQ) and Joint Subcommittee on Oceans (JSO)] propose an initiative to address all three Ocean Commission recommendations in Chapter 15: Creating a National Water Quality Monitoring Network. The Ocean Commission recommends:

CEQ and NSTC request that the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI), through the National Water-Quality Monitoring Council (Council), provide advice, counsel, and recommendations that address the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy recommendation regarding the creation of a “coordinated, comprehensive” national water quality monitoring network. The primary task of this advice is to recommend a design for a National water-quality monitoring network (hereafter referred to as the network). The network would be designed to address and integrate watershed, coastal waters, and ocean monitoring, based on common criteria and standards. The network would provide information on water quality that, when interpreted with other information such as economic and land use data, would provide relevant scientific information to assist resource management and decision making. The network design should identify the major overarching management questions that need to be addressed and the fundamental elements of this national monitoring network (such as atmospheric deposition, surface water, ground water, and water quality, including biological monitoring), emphasizing the “federally funded backbone” of water quality networks and programs. General classes of monitoring activities should be discussed, in cases where there are more programs than practically can be addressed on an individual basis, for example volunteer monitoring programs. Specific tasks are to:

  1. Define the elements of the recommended network and the corresponding overarching management questions that they address, and explain how the elements interrelate;
  2. Describe how the recommended network addresses important issues and management questions through case studies of existing monitoring activities;
  3. Determine which management questions and network components are not being adequately addressed with existing activities; why the questions cannot be answered (for example, lack of data, existing data cannot be shared across boundaries); and what is needed; and
  4. Recommend specific actions intended to better coordinate existing networks so that they more effectively yield information needed to achieve the proposed network. Consider limitations of existing resources and the tradeoffs of redirecting or adding new resources.
  5. Recommend specific actions to enhance compatibility of the national water quality monitoring network with the nascent Ocean and Earth Observation Systems, as recommended by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, including data management and quality standards.

The description of the network would draw upon case studies of existing monitoring activities to demonstrate the way it addresses important issues, and existing limitations, redundancy and monitoring needs. Examples of potential case studies include:

As indicated in the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy’s recommendations, NOAA, NASA, EPA, USGS, USACE, and other federal agencies as appropriate would collaborate in and support this assessment. The advice, counsel, and recommendations are being sought from the ACWI to gain participation of state, tribal, and other government and private sector entities involved in monitoring. The framework should consider recent documents that address monitoring needs and limitations at both the national scale and for specific case studies (list follows).

This activity will:

It is expected that ACWI/Council would help to finalize this charge, and agree on an appropriate process to proceed. The tasks agreed to would be completed within one year (by January 2006) with at least one interim report to ACWI, CEQ, and NSTC in September 2005.

Recent reports that should be considered for this assessment include:

Interagency Working Group:

U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Oceans Task Force
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA, NRCS)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Office of Scientific Technolgy and Policy
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR)

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