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Watershed Monitoring

Where Do I Get Data?

Obtaining information on your watershed’s health and water quality can be complicated. The health of surface water, found in streams and lakes, as well as ground water, impact the watershed as a whole. Additionally, watersheds as a drinking water source are important. “Healthy” also has many interpretations, as Hoosiers use water to drink and swim in, and water is important to wildlife. Many organizations monitor water in Indiana for all these different reasons. Since, every stream can’t be monitored all the time, we are still learning much about our water quality. Specific data may be available directly from the individual program or organization (see links at the bottom of this page). If you need any help gathering data, contact your IDEM watershed specialist.

IDEM Assessments Branch

The Assessments Branch has several programs and may have raw chemical, physical and biological data for streams in your watershed.

  • Probabilistic Monitoring Program: This program assesses basins on a five-year rotating basis. There are more than 38 sites randomly selected in each basin for sampling; sampling parameters include E. coli, water chemistry, chlorophyll a, fish, macroinvertebrates and habitat quality. The probabilistic monitoring program also oversees the following programs:
    • Fish community sampling program: Also assessed on a five-year rotating basis. The program collects fish community assemblage data for the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI), Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI), in-situ water chemistry and other parameters as necessary (land use, etc.).
    • Macroinvertebrate community assessment program: This program samples wadeable streams and rivers at 890 sites on over 500 different rivers and streams, including 90 of 92 counties to establish reference conditions.
  • Fish Tissue Contaminant Monitoring Program: This program is a five-year rotation of basins, with sites on rivers, lakes and reservoirs based on a probabilistic draw in wadeable streams. The program also focuses on emerging problem areas of the state and on water bodies never before monitored, while still regularly revisiting 20 designated CORE river locations near Lake Michigan. The program also focuses on a fish consumption risk assessment and publishes advisory tables for mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for fish in Indiana waterways. It also samples for metals, pesticides and other organics in fish tissues.
  • Lake Water Quality Assessment Program: This program focuses on the status and trends of the trophic state of 500-600 Indiana lakes. It samples lakes on a five to six year rotation schedule. The program also oversees volunteer monitoring of over 100 additional Indiana lakes, monitoring physical, chemical and biological indicators like temperature, dissolved oxygen and algae.
  • Sediment Contamination Monitoring Program: This program is a five-year rotating basin program that provides information on chemical contaminants that may be accumulating in the sediments of Indiana’s streams, rivers and lakes. The program provides supportive information for the fish contaminant monitoring.
  • Surveys Section: This section oversees the Fixed Station Monitoring program, as well as data collection of trace metals, E. coli and nutrients in Indiana waterbodies. The section also oversees studies to determine the magnitude and sources of water chemistry impairments, as well as various special projects.

IDEM Integrated Report Program

The Integrated Report program tells you what we know about waterbodies in our state.

The Integrated Report is the collective work of many different IDEM sections and describes the condition of Indiana's lakes and streams, the Lake Michigan shoreline and ground water relative to their designated uses. The Integrated Report lists which of Indiana’s water resources, also known as assessment units, meet its designated use and which are impaired for a particular use. Recreation is an example of a designated use and refers to the ability to use the water for wading and swimming. A common impairment of recreation is E. coli, which is a bacterium that may indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms. If an assessment unit is impaired, the report describes the type of impairment and the assessment unit goes on the 303(d) Impaired Waters List, where a total maximum daily load is assigned.

IDEM Drinking Water Branch

The Drinking Water Branch collects information on the efforts being taken to protect your drinking water supply.

The Drinking Water Branch serves the consumers of Indiana’s water supplies by achieving and maintaining safe and adequate supplies of drinking water through the provision of accurate information, support and guidance in a timely manner. If you drink water from a municipal water supply, mobile home park or school, or at a factory, church, restaurant or campground, the Drinking Water Branch works to maintain its safety. The Branch also oversees the Source Water Protection Program, which helps communities understand all aspects of their drinking water source and possible threats to it. The Drinking Water Branch is divided into four sections: Compliance, Construction Permits, Field Inspection and Ground Water.

Total Maximum Daily Load Program

The Total Maximum Daily Load program summarizes data used to designate a waterbody as impaired, gives background information about the watershed, and documents possible pollutant sources.

U.S. EPA requires that assessment units placed on the 303(d) Impaired Waters List portion of the Integrated Report have a total maximum daily load (TMDL) prepared. TMDLs focus on protecting watersheds by establishing the allowable pollution loadings a water body can absorb every day and still meet water quality standards.

The TMDL process provides a flexible data gathering, analysis and planning framework for identifying load reductions or other actions needed to attain water quality standards and goals to protect aquatic life, drinking water and other water uses. The public is involved throughout the TMDL process and IDEM depends on any input the public may have about local water quality conditions, land use and pollution sources.

Indiana Water Monitoring Inventory

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service maintains this inventory, which is a hub for water monitoring locations of Indiana streams, lakes and ground water.

Monitoring has been conducted across Indiana’s waters by a variety of government agencies and organizations, but information on waterways may be difficult to find. The Inventory allows potential users of monitoring information to locate monitoring sites, determine what data has been collected and contact the data holders or their Web site for more information. The actual monitoring data is not stored in the Inventory – it only contains detailed information on the location of the monitoring site and what is being monitored or was monitored in the past.

The Inventory is searchable by location, parameter type or the agency or organization that conducted the sampling. The Inventory provides environmental managers, regulators, local volunteers, citizen groups and others with a tool to aid in improving Indiana’s water quality.

IDNR Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) Program

LARE is a fee-funded program run by the Department of Natural Resources. LARE’s priorities include:

  • A preliminary lake study;
  • A comprehensive lake diagnostic study;
  • An engineering feasibility study of possible pollutant control measures;
  • A design study for a specific pollutant control measure;
  • Construction of a particular pollutant control measure;
  • A management plan for the lake; or,
  • A performance appraisal of a constructed pollutant control measure.

If a LARE-funded project was undertaken in your watershed, IDNR staff can help you access any data collected as a part of it.

Hoosier Riverwatch

Hoosier Riverwatch promotes stewardship of Indiana's waterways through a volunteer stream monitoring and water quality education program.

By searching the Hoosier Riverwatch site, you may access water quality data collected by volunteers. Because the organization is driven by volunteers, there may be gaps in the data or there may not be any sampling points in your watershed. Since the data is not analyzed in a lab, it is not comparable to agency data or other professionally collected data. However, for data that can show general trends, Hoosier Riverwatch data sets are a great value. Anyone can be certified as a Hoosier Riverwatch volunteer, and the program is a great way to start collecting data from your watershed.

Additional Information