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Water Quality Data

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The Omaha District has collected water quality data at Corps projects in the District since the late 1970's. The data have been assessed and summarized in water quality reports prepared by the District.  The data collected are stored in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's national STORET and WQX water quality database. The data can be accessed and downloaded online from the STORET/WQX website at www.epa.gov/storet

Recent water quality data collected by the District may not have been entered into STORET/WQX and can be obtained by contacing the District.

The U.S. Geological Survey collects water quality data throughout the United States.  Water quality data have been collected at Corps project areas in the District. These data can be accessed online through the U.S. Geological Survey's website "Surface-Water Data for the Nation" at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/sw.

State environmental agencies responsible for surface water quality management routinely collect surface water quality data within their State. Water quality data have been collected by the States at Corps projects in the District. This information may be stored and accessible through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's STORET/WQX database. State water quality agency websites may publish water quality information on their web sites. The State of Nebraska, during the recreation season, publishes weekly bacteria and cyanobacteria toxin levels at District reservoirs with swimming beaches.

Local Watershed Management Authorities have been established to protect and improve water quality at the three Colorado Tributary Projects in the District:  Bear Creek, Chatfield, and Cherry Creek Reservoirs.  Each of these Watershed Authorities has adopted local water quality regulations and water quality management plans to protect and manage water quality at the respective reservoirs.  As part of these water quality management plans, the Watershed Authorities are implementing comprehensive water quality monitoring programs.  For efficiency purposes, the Corps ceased its water quality monitoring activities at the three Colorado Tributary Projects in 2002, and now defers to the respective Watershed Authorities for assessment of water quality conditions at Bear Creek, Chatfield, and Cherry Creek Reservoirs.  Persons interested in water quality conditions at the three Colorado tributary projects can visit the websites maintained by the following groups:

Water Quality Monitoring Program

ER 1110-2-8154, "Water Quality and Environmental Management for Corps Civil Works Projects", states that that water quality data collection activities should be guided by the following general rules:

  • Data collection efforts will be determined on a project-specific basis.  Local conditions, specific project characteristics, and program objectives will be used to determine parameters to be measured, sampling and analytical methods, frequency of sampling, number and location of data collection stations, and data analysis techniques to be employed.
  • Sample collection and handling shall be accomplished using scientifically sound and commonly accepted procedures.
  • Biological monitoring programs are encouraged.  Biological data are often the most important component of a water quality data collection effort, are especially useful in identifying pollution spikes or other forms of environmental stress, and often are more cost effective than more conventional chemical and physical data.  In most cases an integration of physical, chemical, and biological data is needed to understand the performance and behavior of a project.  A component of a monitoring program should be determining if threatened and endangered species and their habitats are adversely affected by water quality conditions, or could be enhanced through improved water quality management.
  • Partnering of data collection efforts with other governmental and nongovernmental entities is encouraged and is cost effective.  Use of appropriately trained volunteers for observers and data collection is encouraged.
  • A quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) program covering all aspects of data collection and analysis is required to ensure validity of the data.  Analytical procedures accepted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be utilized as appropriate.
  • Data collection programs must be evaluated and modified as necessary to satisfy established objectives, eliminate unnecessary sampling, and address changes in priorities.

Program Overview

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The following purposes and monitoring objectives have been defined to guide surface water quality data collection by the District.

Purpose 1: Determine surface water quality conditions at District projects.
Monitoring Objectives for Implementing Purpose 1:

  • For new District water resource projects, establish baseline surface water quality conditions as soon as possible and appropriate.
  • Characterize the spatial and temporal occurrence of surface water quality conditions at District Projects.
  • Identify pollutants and their sources that are impacting surface water quality and the aquatic environment at District Projects.
  • Evaluate water/sediment interactions and their impact on overall water quality at District Projects.
  • Identify the presence and concentrations of contaminants in indicator and human-consumed fish species at District Projects.
  • Investigate unique events (e.g., fish kills, hazardous waste spills, operational emergencies, health emergencies, public complaints, etc.) at District Projects that may have degraded surface water quality or impacted the aquatic environment.

Purpose 2: Document surface water quality concerns that are due to the operation and reservoir regulation of District Projects.
Monitoring Objectives for Implementing Purpose 2:

  • Determine if surface water quality conditions at District Projects or attributable to District operations or reservoir regulation (i.e., downstream conditions resulting from reservoir discharges) meets applicable Federal, Tribal, and State water quality standards.
  • Determine if surface water quality conditions at District Projects or attributable District operations or reservoir regulation are improving, degrading, or staying the same over time.
  • Apply water quality models to assess surface water quality conditions at District Projects.

Purpose 3:  Provide data to support Project operations and reservoir regulation for effective management and enhancement of surface water quality and the aquatic environment.
Monitoring Objectives for Implementing Purpose 3:

  • Provide surface water quality data required for real-time regulation of District Projects.
  • Collect the information needed to design, engineer, and implement measures or modifications at District Projects to enhance surface water quality and the aquatic environment.

Purpose 4: Evaluate the effectiveness of structural or regulation measures implemented at District Projects to enhance surface water quality and the aquatic environment.
Monitoring Objectives for Implementing Purpose 4:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of IMPLEMENTED measures at District Projects to improve surface water quality and the aquatic environment.

From a pollution management perspective, surface water quality data collection approaches have been characterized as either source or ambient monitoring.  Source monitoring involves assessing and evaluating the composition of industrial or municipal effluent discharged into waterways, and of the “mixing zones” where this wastewater merges with the receiving water.  Ambient monitoring refers to all forms of monitoring conducted beyond the immediate influence of a “discharge pipe”, including sampling of sediment and living resources.

The District is primarily involved in ambient monitoring; however, source monitoring (i.e., effluent characterization studies) would be utilized if an appropriate situation should arise.  The District will typically use the following data collection approaches in conducting its surface water quality data collection activities:

  • Long-term fixed station monitoring.
  • Intensive surveys.
  • Special studies.
  • Investigative monitoring.

Long-term fixed station monitoring is intended to provide information that will allow the District to determine the status and trends of surface water quality at District Projects. This type of sampling consists of systematically collecting samples at the same location over a long period of time (e.g., collecting monthly water samples at the same site for several years).

Intensive surveys are intended to provide more detailed information regarding surface water quality conditions at District Projects.  They typically will include more sites sampled over a shorter timeframe than long-term fixed station monitoring.  Intensive surveys will provide the detailed information to thoroughly understand surface water quality conditions at a Project.

Special studiesare conducted to address specific information needs.  Special water quality studies may be undertaken to collect the information needed to “scope-out” a specific water quality problem; apply water quality models; design and engineer modifications at projects; or evaluate the effectiveness of implemented water quality enhancement measures.

Investigative monitoring is typically initiated in response to an immediate need for surface water quality information at a District project.  This may be in response to an operational situation, the occurrence of a significant pollution event, public complaint, or a report of a fish kill.  Any District response to a pollution event or fish kill would need to be coordinated with the appropriate Tribal, State and Local agencies.  The type of sampling that is done for investigative purposes is highly specific to the situation under investigation.