Information Strategies Work Group Meeting Minutes

Ann Arbor, Michigan - July 19-23, 2004

Herb Brass, Curtis Cude, Paul Currier, Don Dycus, Art Garceau, Donna Myers, Charlie Peters, Chuck Spooner, David Tucker, Robert Ward

Minutes: (Summarized from two sessions)

Review of WIS meeting minutes from Portland, Oregon, highlighted the ‘point-of-transition’. Such an observation is even more relevant this July as the General Accounting Office (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04382.pdf), National Research Council (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11031.html), and U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (http://oceancommission.gov/documents/prelimreport/welcome.html), release reports related to water quality monitoring. In addition, the National Science Foundation Hydrologic Observatories RFP is soon to be released (http://www.cuahsi.org/). This collection of reports and actions provide opportunities to develop new directions for the Water Information Strategies Work Group.

It was noted that the NWIS/STORET MOU participants, as mentioned in the Council meeting earlier, have removed the double data entry problem between the two data systems. Work continues on the MOU which will develop a common access approach to the two large water quality data systems.

Per the request of Peter Grevatt, Chief, Monitoring Branch, U.S. EPA, and Donna Myers, Chief, National Water Quality Assessment Program, USGS, the WIS work group suggests the USGS and EPA Collaborative Strategy for Monitoring and Modeling effort consider the following sites as areas for demonstration purposes:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Lake Michigan
  3. Navajo Nation
  4. Wisconsin Ground Water Network

Continuing WIS Efforts:

A September 2003 Water Resources IMPACT issue ‘leftover’ draft paper, which describes a vision for information technology in water quality monitoring, should be revisited and, if acceptable to the authors, developed into a formal paper submitted to a journal. Robert will review the current draft paper, suggest revisions, and send it to the authors, as well as Curtis Cude, Don Dycus, Charlie Peters, and Chuck Spooner.

The design guidance inventory, distributed in draft form in the past, will be ‘cleaned up’ and placed on the Council website. Clean up involves removing the ‘examples of documented designs using the guidance’ and adding new guidelines, such as the NAWQA guidance (Donna Myer), EMAP guidance (Michael McDonald), and Pennsylvania (Charlie Peters).

The effort to estimate the monitoring budget percentages allocated to each cog on the monitoring framework will continue with development of a more detailed form (to gain more insight into the types of monitoring being described) employing a web-based form to submit budget percentage estimates. The WIS Work Group continues its interest in this subject because:

  1. Need to have a quantifiable way to check the data collection versus information development balance within a monitoring program;
  2. Previous studies, while indicating the need for such information, do not appear to have firm data on the subject; and,
  3. The cog allocation percentages reflect a way to perform self-evaluation of a monitoring program relative to information goals of the sponsoring organization.

Interest in trying to understand how monitoring professionals should respond to state-based data creditability laws, the Federal Data Quality law, and the concept of ‘found data’, continues. The exact nature and meaning of these factors in water quality monitoring will be addressed in collaboration with the Methods Board’s efforts to develop an IMPACT issue on data comparability.

New Initiatives:

The USGS Cooperative Program, in its work with States and EPA, often encounters varying Quality Assurance Project Planning requirements. There is a desire, in the name of consistency, comparability, and budget efficiency, to explore the feasibility of developing a template for such plans. This appears to be an issue that could be addressed by a MOU between EPA and USGS, in a manner similar to the current NWIS/STORET MOU. Charlie Peters will explore the possibility of such an approach.

The concept of a water quality index needs to be revisited, as a means of communicating water quality conditions to the public and, in turn, to policy makers and politicians. The WIS Work Group will develop a session on the subject for the 2006 National Monitoring Conference (tentatively schedule for San Jose, California, May 2006). A tentative title for the session is “Interpretative Approaches: The Role of Indices in Water Quality Management”. If time permits, a literature review of the topic, by a group of interested professionals, will be organized as a means of developing a workshop on the topic for the 2006 conference. With the efforts in Canada and other countries, there can be a strong international flavor to this topic. Also, related work by the Wadeable Streams Survey, Oregon, Indiana, TVA, Tetra Tech, and others can possibly be tapped to support a workshop.

Response to the GAO report:

The GAO report suggests that Congress consider ‘formally designating a lead organization (either existing water data coordinating entity or one of the federal agencies with broad water data collection responsibilities) for this purpose. Among its responsibilities, the organization would:

  1. Support the development and continued operation of regional and state monitoring councils.
  2. Coordinate the development of an Internet-based clearinghouse to convey what entities are collecting what types of data. As part of this effort, the organization could advance the development of a geospatial Internet-based query tool (portal) that would allow users access to information about water data available within a given watershed.
  3. Coordinate the development of clear guidance on metadata standards so that data users can integrate data from various sources.”

The WIS, after considerable discussion, suggests that the Council form a sub-committee to develop a briefing document that explains who are members of the Council, what the Council does, how it does it, and the products already produced. In addition, the briefing document should include a well formed work plan, with either time release needs of agency staff and/or funding associated with doing the additional activities requested by the GAO.

The discussion also noted that a national monitoring clearinghouse could be developed by working with state monitoring councils, many of which have already developed state-based monitoring inventories. Thus, the Council could take the lead in developing a national monitoring clearinghouse, if resources (staff time and funding) are provided.

Response to Ocean Commission Report:

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, in Chapter 15, states:
“ The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with other appropriate entities, should develop a national water quality monitoring network that coordinates existing and planned monitoring efforts, including monitoring of atmospheric deposition. The network should include a federally funded backbone of critical stations and measurements needed to access long-term water quality trends and conditions.”

“ The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with other appropriate entities, should ensure that the national water quality monitoring network includes the following elements: clearly defined goals that fulfill user needs and measure management success; a core set of variables to be measured, with regional flexibility to measure additional variables where needed; an overall system design that determines where, how, and when to monitoring and includes a mix of time and space scales, probabilistic and fixed stations, and stressor- and effects-oriented measurements; technical coordination that established standard procedures and techniques; and periodic review of the monitoring network, with modifications as necessary.”

“ The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with other appropriate entities, should ensure that water quality monitoring data are translated into timely and useful information products that are easily accessible to the public and linked to output from the Integrated Ocean Observing System.”

WIS discussions of the Oceans Commission report noted that a number of questions arise with the above recommendations. For example, how does a national monitoring network contain both fixed and probabilistic stations? Does development of a national network involved integrated existing national monitoring programs, such as 305b and NAWQA, or should the U.S. begin anew using the Council’s monitoring framework? Would development of a U.S. national, federally funded, water quality monitoring strategy, which explains how federally funded monitoring provides the water quality information needed to manage the nation’s water quality (see attached crude attempt to do this), serve as a basis for formulating a national network?

2004 Conference Follow Up and Initial Planning for 2006:

The 2006 National Monitoring Conference has tentatively been scheduled for San Jose during May 2006. A final confirmation will be obtained shortly.

The WIS’s Special Information Technology meeting, during the 2004 Conference, generated a quick list of current IT related work in water quality monitoring, a list of people working in the water quality monitoring/IT field, and as assessment of where the field of IT in monitoring is at present. A report on the special IT session is attached below.

In response to the IT session, WIS, under the leadership of Curtis Cude, will place a modified form of the IT session report on the Council website and develop a list serve to continue the IT/monitoring dialogue initiated in Chattanooga.

Recommendations that emerged from the WIS-oriented conference track during the 2004 National Monitoring Conference were:

The ‘monitoring objectives’ sessions, at the 2004 National Monitoring Conference, tended to be too broadly focused. In responding to this observation, planning for 2006 will consider focusing monitoring objective sessions on narrow monitoring/information efforts, such as state agency monitoring in response to the Clean Water Act; municipal source water monitoring in response to the Safe Drinking Water Act; and monitoring conducted within the USGS Cooperative Program.

Another 2006 possible theme is monitoring the success of TMDL implementation, given that by 2006 there will be many TMDL’s ‘in action’. A theme could focus on what is attainable versus what is expected in protecting beneficial uses.

Taking advantage of the San Jose location for the 2006 conference, a WIS session (workshop?) will be organized on emerging roles of new measurement technology (in collaboration with the Methods Board) and applications/needs of information technology in the monitoring framework. It may be possible to develop a workshop planning effort where a group of monitoring professionals is blended with a group of Silicon Valley IT professionals, to explore opportunities for both developing new monitoring IT and/or adapting monitoring to IT constraints to take advantage of its efficiencies.

WIS Organizational Issues:

Robert Ward’s term on the Council terminates in 2005 and he will not seek reappointment as the academic representative on the Council. Thus, there is a need for the WIS Work Group to seek a new Chair. However, before proceeding with this action, the WIS suggests that the Council consider conducting a facilitated evaluation of its organization and operations, particularly in light of a new and expanded role it may play if the GAO and Ocean Commission report suggestions add new responsibilities to the Council. Such an evaluation should carefully examine the need to restructure the Council around its monitoring framework cogs.

If the Council does not conduct an organizational evaluation, the WIS suggests the Council consider dividing the WIS into two Work Groups:

  1. Data Interpretation and Reporting Work Group
  2. IT/Data Management Work Group

Co-chairs of the two Work Groups should come from the USGS and EPA, with release time to recognize the effort it takes to proactively move a volunteer organization toward ‘products’ and ‘tools’ to improve consistency and comparability in water quality data management, data analysis, and reporting (and associated information goal identification and monitoring design).

Summary of WIS Work Tasks – Ann Arbor Meeting:

Continuing Efforts:

  1. Revise ‘white’ paper, left over from IMPACT issue, and send to authors to see if they are interested in publishing an IT vision for water quality monitoring. (Robert)
  2. Refine design guidance ‘inventory’ and place on Council website. (Robert)
  3. Glossary on Council website – no further action as funding is needed for next level of development.
  4. Pursue effort to estimate cog budget allocations (via an web available form including meta data for future budget assessments)
  5. Assist Methods Board in developing an IMPACT issue on data comparability (found data, data creditability laws and Federal Data Quality Act)

New Efforts:

  1. Discuss QAPP Template concept with Council (define problem and prepare MOU for USGS and EPA working relationships – similar to NWIS/STORET MOU). – Assume USGS and EPA will follow up.
  2. Water quality index testing (with international collaborators)
    1. Session at 2006 Conference
    2. Literature review and session planning effort
Response to GAO/Oceans Report
  1. Council briefing document/presentation needed, along with a well formed work plan. A Sub Committee should be formed to develop briefing document.
    National Conference Follow Up/2006 Plans
  2. Place IT Session report on Council Webpage
  3. Develop IT list serve to continue IT Chattanooga dialogue
  4. Using location – organize a 2006 brainstorming session on monitoring/high tech joint opportunities. (possible preparation group could result in an excellent workshop)
  5. Suggest keynote speaker on water availability – regarding water needed to sustain a healthy ecosystem and meet restoration goals (and monitoring objectives), perhaps using the CalFed work as a source for such a keynote speaker.

WIS Organization

  1. Recommend facilitated examination of Council organization and operations (in light of GAO and Oceans opportunity)
  2. Robert’s term expiring in 2005 – need new (with job description commitment) co-chairs from USGS and EPA.
  3. If there is a need to divide work group, recommend development of two new work groups:
    1. Data Interpretation and Reporting Work Group
    2. IT/Data Management Work Group

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