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.