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Ohio Credible Data Program

There are many watershed groups, community associations, educators, local governmental organizations, and private sector businesses that collect water quality data in Ohio. The purposes of these sampling efforts vary, as do the methods, quality control and data reporting procedures used. Given such a wide variation in sampling and analytical techniques, is it possible and worthwhile to consider the use of data collected by these individuals, volunteer groups and organizations?

Yes. That was the determination and public policy made when the Ohio General Assembly passed Amended House Bill 43 in 2003. While there were a number of motivating factors that caused this legislative bill to be enacted into law, the concept that the State should have as much good scientific information about our surface waters as possible in order to properly manage them was a primary reason for the legislation. Ohio EPA uses the data submitted through the program in several ways dependent upon how the data was collected and whether it meets various review standards. See additional information on Ohio EPA's use of submitted data.

Ohio EPA, using the framework established by this legislation, has adopted rules for the surface water monitoring program designed to encourage and oversee the collection, analysis and use of data collected by volunteer individuals and organizations. To promote scientific validity, Ohio EPA has established specific requirements to participate in the program and to collect data using approved study plans. Data generated under approved project study plans will be collected from the program's Qualified Data Collectors through the use of an online data entry system. Interested parties can then view this data (and water quality data collected by other state agencies) through this on-line system, which is accessed through the Ohio EPA eBusiness Center. We hope that more water quality monitoring will be done by volunteers, both professionals and non-professionals, now that a formal program exists and that sharing water quality data will benefit volunteers, state agencies and others in Ohio.  


2022 Qualified Data Collector Trainings:

  • Midwest Biodiversity Institute - Please see MBI's website for more information.
    • Level 3 Fish/QHEI Training June 6-9th, 2022
    • Level 3 Bioassessment: Macroinvertebrates Training June 6-9th, 2022
    • Level 2 QHEI Training May 23-24th, 2022
  • EnviroScience - Please see EnviroScience's website for more information

Application Forms

Application forms are available at the links below. The forms may be filled out on-line but must be printed, signed, and mailed to Ohio EPA (the address is on the forms). 

Within 30 days of receipt Ohio EPA will notify the applicant if the form is complete (or what information is incomplete) and within 30 days of the form being deemed complete, the Ohio EPA will notify the applicant of their status (approved or denied). Under the administrative rules for the program all denials of Qualified Data Collector (QDC) status are proposed actions of the Director and may be appealed to the Agencys Hearing Officer. The same rule also allows the Director to revoke a persons QDC status for cause, including falsification of information on the application.

Each application form is available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file and a Microsoft Word DOC file. The forms can be downloaded and completed by using your keyboard to type in the appropriate language or to make the appropriate selections.

DOC File Notes:

If the text of the DOC form jumps around while you're typing, switch to Normal View (under View on the Word toolbar or in the lower left hand corner of your screen).

Qualified Data Collector Status  Form #  Downloads  
Level 1 (No Longer Available - See Explanation*) - - -
Level 2 Stream habitat assessment 4311 [PDF] [DOC]
Level 2 and Level 3 Benthic macroinvertebrate biology 4312 [PDF] [DOC]
Level 2 and Level 3 Chemical water quality assessment 4313 [PDF] [DOC]
Level 3 Fish community biology 4314 [PDF] [DOC]
Status Renewal 4317 [PDF] [DOC]
Level 1 Trainer 4318 [PDF] [DOC]
Level 2 or 3 Trainer 4319 [PDF] [DOC]

* Level 1 trainees no longer must apply after training.  No Level 1 QDC approval letters will be printed or mailed. Level 1 QDCs will however be added to online Current QDCs web page, per revised Credible Data rules effective Feb. 19, 2018.

Under OAC 3745-4-03 Qualified Data Collectors, paragraph A 1(a), revised rule states: "An individual may obtain level 1 QDC status by documenting completion of a basic water quality monitoring program designed for public awareness and education. Successful completion of a level 1 training from a QDC trainer approved by the director shall result in automatic approval as a level 1 QDC if the trainee provides name and contact information at the training. Individuals automatically approved as level 1 QDCs shall be included on the list of approved QDCs on the credible data website.

Note: A collection permit may be required from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for biological sampling. This includes collection of fish, macroinvertebrates, mollusks, shells, etc. but does not include, for example, identifying, counting, and releasing macroinvertebrates. Contact Ron Ollis (at 614-265-6315) with the Division of Wildlife before collecting samples.


Some key definitions are below. Additional definitions are in rule 3745-4-02.

"Credible data" means scientifically valid chemical, physical, or biological water quality monitoring data concerning surface waters, including qualitative scoring of physical habitat characteristics and the sampling of fish, macroinvertebrates, and water quality, that have been collected by or submitted to the director and that comply with the requirements established in this chapter. Credible data may include historical data if the director identifies compelling reasons as to why the data are credible.

"Data quality objectives (DQOs)" means qualitative and quantitative statements derived from the DQO process that clarify study objectives, define the appropriate type of data, and specify tolerable levels of potential decision errors that will be used as the basis for establishing the quality and quantity of data needed to support decisions. The planning process for ensuring environmental data are the type, quality, and quantity needed for decision making is called the DQO process.

"Detection limit" means the lowest concentration of a target analyte that a given method or piece of equipment can reliably ascertain and report as greater than zero.

"Educational monitoring program" means a surface water quality data collection program designed for education or public awareness purposes and associated with an accredited or school-sponsored science education program. The program must be consistent with national or state science content standards, provide an introduction to basic water quality principles and train participants in the use of field instrumentation, sample collection and preservation, and data recording techniques.

"Headwater habitat evaluation index (HHEI)" means an assessment methodology of the principal physical and riparian stream habitat features in headwater streams.

"Mine affected stream" means a water body with one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. A stream or stream segment identified as being impaired or impacted due to causes and sources related to coal mining;
  2. A stream or stream segment identified in a plan approved under the acid mine drainage abatement and treatment program administered by the Ohio department of natural resources;
  3. A stream or stream segment, not necessarily directly affected by coal mining, but contained within a watershed assessment unit with documented environmental problems related to coal mining; and
  4. Streams or stream segments designated limited resource water (acid mine drainage) or modified warmwater habitat (mine affected) in Chapter 3745-1 of the Administrative Code.

"Project study plan" means a document describing the purpose of the data collection, the parameters or conditions that will be monitored, the methods of data collection and analysis, the identification of monitoring sites, a schedule for data collection and reporting, and how the data will be interpreted and presented.

See Study Plans page.

"Qualitative habitat evaluation index (QHEI)" means an assessment methodology of the principal physical and riparian stream habitat features that affect fish communities and other aquatic life.

Additional Resources

Level 2 benthic macroinvertebrate study kits


Coming Soon


Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water
Standards & Technical Support Section
50 West Town Street, Suite 700
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049
(614) 644-2001 [voice]
(614) 644-2745 [fax]
email: credible.data@epa.ohio.gov

Note:  We have de-emphasized the name Volunteer Monitoring Program on these Web pages (in favor of the name Credible Data Program). While it is absolutely still our intent to encourage volunteer monitoring, the large majority of current program participants are not volunteers. We feel the term Credible Data not only reflects the initial legislation but is more inclusive of all of those participating in the program (including those from other state agencies required to submit their water quality data to us). We hope this change doesn't cause any confusion and welcome your comments on all aspects of the program.