Where To Get Technical Assistance
The Office of Water Quality (OWQ) provides various types of technical assistance to individuals and organizations interested in participating in the External Data Framework (EDF).
Assistance with Data Quality Documentation
Data of known quality are data of higher quality. One of the first questions one must ask when considering a given data set to make a decision is whether the data are reliable. In order to determine this, the data must be of known quality. This means that information about how and where samples were collected, the methods used in their analyses, and how the quality of the results was assessed must be documented.
Data collected without any such information documented are data of unknown quality. Such data may be used anecdotally, but cannot be reliably used in any kind of decision making.
OWQ will accept water quality data with no data quality documentation through the EDF. However, these data will not be used by IDEM. Adequate data quality documentation can make a big difference in the reliability of your data and increases its value to your own organization, OWQ and others.
EDF participants may document the quality of their data set in a quality assurance project plan (QAPP) or with a combination of documents that together characterize the quality of the data set.
A QAPP is preferred for the EDF because it is comprehensive in nature and includes all the information needed to determine the quality of a given data set. A QAPP checklist is available online and provides a summary of the types of information that should be included in a QAPP. OWQ also provides a template and guidance online to help EDF participants develop a QAPP and staff to answer any questions they have in the process.
Getting Help with Data Submittals
The OWQ Secondary Data Portal provides three ways to submit your data to the EDF, including user-friendly online data entry forms, customized Microsoft (MS) Excel templates, and the option to work with OWQ to develop an electronic data interchange (EDI).
The online data entry is best for small data sets because the forms use a number of dropdown menus that can quickly become tedious when working with data sets with several parameters and results for many sites. However, for relatively simple data sets, online data entry will take you through three basic steps to register as a user, to register your organizational affiliation (if applicable), and identify your sites. Once registration is complete, you may begin entering your water quality data.
For larger and/or more complex data sets or organizations with ongoing monitoring programs, OWQ’s Microsoft (MS) Excel data template, which can be requested through the Secondary Data Portal, may be a better option. When you request a template, OWQ will send you a form to fill out with your project information and sampling site locations. When you upload the completed form, OWQ will generate a customized template for you to use in submitting your monitoring results. Simply add your results to the template, upload it to the portal, and click a button to request another for your next data submittal.
Organizations with ongoing monitoring programs that produce a lot of water quality data on a regular basis may find it advantageous to work with OWQ staff to develop an EDI with which they can automatically upload their data into IDEM’s Assessment Information Management System (AIMS) database for review by OWQ staff.
For more questions regarding which option might be best for you or if you need assistance with data submittals, please contact the Secondary Data Coordinator via the Office of Water Quality.
Recommendations on How to Improve the Quality of Your Data
Monitoring activities are typically determined based on an organization’s unique project needs, not the needs of OWQ. However, if your organization is currently in the process of planning or will be developing a monitoring plan, it may be possible to design a study to produce data that meets both needs, increasing the quality of your data and its value to your own organization and others, including OWQ.
If your organization already has a monitoring program in place, it may be possible to monitor in a way that provides data that will also meet OWQ’s needs with only minor adjustments to your current activities.
The Technical Guidance [PDF] for the EDF will answer many of your questions regarding the steps you might need to take to improve the quality of your data set and provides links to a number of other resources to help you:
- Develop a monitoring plan that will provide you with sufficient and reliable data for your intended use(s)
- Conduct your monitoring with methods that are the same or similar to those OWQ employs in its own monitoring programs
- Determine what types of data quality control procedures will help you improve and quantify the quality of your data set
You may also contact the Secondary Data Coordinator via the Office of Water Quality. They can provide additional suggestions specific to your data collection activities.
Indiana is fortunate to have two State-sponsored volunteer monitoring organizations that help to educate the public about Indiana’s water resources and water quality. Together, Hoosier Riverwatch and the Indiana Clean Lakes Program have trained thousands of citizen scientists many of whom actively monitor surface waters throughout the state.
For stream monitoring, the Hoosier Riverwatch program provides training through several one-day workshops on water chemistry and biological monitoring with Hoosier Riverwatch methods, special topics in water monitoring, and water monitoring instructor training. The current training schedule is available online.
For individuals and organizations interested in monitoring lakes and reservoirs, the Indiana Clean Lakes Program (CLP) provides a volunteer monitoring manual online. CLP staff will work with volunteers and others involved in lake or reservoir monitoring to answer questions and address issues that arise in their sampling activities.