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Statewide Water-Quality Network for Massachusetts

Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4081

By Leslie A. DeSimone, Peter A. Steeves, and Marc J. Zimmerman


A water-quality monitoring program is proposed that would provide data to meet multiple information needs of Massachusetts agencies and other users concerned with the condition of the State's water resources. The program was designed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Watershed Management, with input from many organizations involved in water-quality monitoring in the State, and focuses on inland surface waters (streams and lakes). The proposed monitoring program consists of several components, or tiers, which are defined in terms of specific monitoring objectives, and is intended to complement the Massachusetts Watershed Initiative (MWI) basin assessments. Several components were developed using the Neponset River Basin in eastern Massachusetts as a pilot area, or otherwise make use of data from and sampling approaches used in that basin as part of a MWI pilot assessment in 1994. To guide development of the monitoring program, reviews were conducted of general principles of network design, including monitoring objectives and approaches, and of ongoing monitoring activities of Massachusetts State agencies.

Network tiers described in this report are primarily (1) a statewide, basin-based assessment of existing surface-water-quality conditions, and (2) a fixed-station network for determining contaminant loads carried by major rivers. Other components, including (3) targeted programs for hot-spot monitoring and other objectives, and (4) compliance monitoring, also are discussed. Monitoring programs for the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads for specific water bodies, which would constitute another tier of the network, are being developed separately and are not described in this report. The basin-based assessment of existing conditions is designed to provide information on the status of surface waters with respect to State water-quality standards and designated uses in accordance with the reporting requirements [Section 305(b)] of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Geographic Information System (GIS)-based procedures were developed to inventory streams and lakes in a basin for these purposes. Several monitoring approaches for this tier and their associated resource requirements were investigated. Analysis of the Neponset Basin for this purpose demonstrated that the large number of sites needed in order for all the small streams in a basin to be sampled (about half of stream miles in the basin were headwater or first-order streams) pose substantial resource-based problems for a comprehensive assessment of existing conditions. The many lakes pose similar problems. Thus, a design is presented in which probabilistic monitoring of small streams is combined with deterministic or targeted monitoring of large streams and lakes to meet CWA requirements and to provide data for other information needs of Massachusetts regulatory agencies and MWI teams.

The fixed-station network is designed to permit the determination of contaminant loads carried by the State's major rivers to sensitive inland and coastal receiving waters and across State boundaries. Sampling at 19 proposed sites in 17 of the 27 major basins in Massachusetts would provide information on contaminant loads from 67 percent of the total land area of the State; unsampled areas are primarily coastal areas drained by many small streams that would be impossible to sample within realistic resource limitations. Strategies for hot-spot monitoring, a targeted monitoring program focused on identifying contaminant sources, are described with reference to an analysis of the bacteria sampling program of the 1994 Neponset Basin assessment. Finally, major discharge sites permitted under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) were evaluated as a basis for ambient water-quality monitoring. The discharge sites are well distributed geographically among basins, but are primarily on large rivers (two-thirds or more on fourth- or higher order streams). Thus, NPDES sites alone would provide a biased estimate of existing water-quality conditions, but might be useful for some loads determinations if data of sufficient quality could be collected.


Executive Summary



Design Considerations for a Statewide Monitoring Network

Monitoring Objectives

Monitoring Approaches

Ongoing Monitoring Activities by State Agencies in Massachusetts

Tier I: Basin-Based Monitoring Program for the Clean Water Act Statewide Assessment

Tier I Monitoring Program Objectives and Approaches

Tier I Monitoring Design for the Neponset River Basin

Definition of Water Resources in the Basin

Data Sources



Sampling Designs

Exhaustive Approach

Sampling Sites, Parameters, and Frequency

Resource Requirements

Analysis of the 1994 Neponset Water-Resource Assessment

Combined Probabilistic-Deterministic Approach

Sampling Sites, Parameters, Frequency, and Resource Requirements for Streams

Probabilistic Sampling Program

Deterministic Sampling Program

Sampling Sites, Parameters, Frequency, and Resource Requirements for Lakes

Statewide Implementation of the Combined Probabilistic-Deterministic Approach for Tier I

Basin-Based Monitoring

Tier II: Fixed-Station Monitoring Program for Contaminant Loads in Major Rivers

Sampling Sites, Parameters, and Frequency

Resource Requirements

Tier III: Targeted Monitoring Programs

Tier V: Strategies for Compliance-Based Ambient Monitoring

Summary and Conclusions


Appendix: Geographic Information System (GIS) and other computer-based procedures used in the monitoring design for the Neponset Basin  





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