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External Data Framework

The External Data Framework (EDF) was developed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Office of Water Quality (OWQ) to provide a systematic, transparent, and voluntary process for external organizations to submit their water quality data for consideration in various OWQ programs. OWQ recognizes that many universities, municipalities, watershed groups and grassroots organizations throughout the state participate in water monitoring activities at various scales. There are also some regulated facilities that conduct monitoring above and beyond what their permits require. The EDF paves the way for greater collaboration between OWQ and many individuals and organizations conducting water quality monitoring to help meet the shared goal of improving and protecting Indiana’s water resources.

The Benefits of Sharing Your Data with OWQ

The EDF can help you improve the quality of the data you collect:

  • If your organization is in the process of developing a water quality monitoring study, the EDF will help you determine the quality control procedures you might need to ensure the data you collect are reliable for your intended use(s).
  • If you are already monitoring, the EDF will help you identify any changes you might need to make in your monitoring program to improve the quality of your data, making it reliable for broader use by OWQ and other organizations.
  • Adhering to EDF guidelines will help you produce a data set of known quality, enhancing both its credibility and value.

The EDF also provides data quality benchmarks that OWQ considers suitable for some local-level needs, which can be used to evaluate whether water quality data you have obtained from other sources are reliable for your own uses.

Types of Data OWQ Accepts Through the EDF

OWQ will accept water quality data collected for surface waters throughout the state. The EDF was developed to accommodate data collected for rivers and streams as well as lakes and reservoirs. The EDF does not currently accept ground water monitoring data or data collected from wetlands because the database OWQ uses to store the data received and facilitate its review was not designed for these types of water resources and/or the types of monitoring data that might be available for them.

The types of data OWQ can accept through the EDF include:

  • General chemistry and physical properties (in and of surface water)
  • Nutrients and other inorganic substances (in surface water)
  • Metals (in surface water and fish tissue)
  • Bacteria (in surface water)
  • Algal toxins (in surface water)
  • Pesticides (in surface water)
  • Organic compounds (in surface water)
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs in surface water and fish tissue)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs in surface water)
  • Aquatic biological communities (fish and macroinvertebrates)
  • Habitat evaluations (for aquatic biological communities)

The Role of Hoosier Riverwatch and the Indiana Clean Lakes Program in the OWQ EDF

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.

Volunteers participating in these programs do not need to also participate in the EDF to have their data considered for potential use by OWQ programs. Hoosier Riverwatch is housed within OWQ. Volunteers that submit their data to the Hoosier Riverwatch Database online will have the option of whether to have their data considered for potential uses identified in the EDF.

The Indiana CLP is administered by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs with a grant from OWQ’s Nonpoint Source Program. Given this, data collected by volunteers through this program will be automatically considered by OWQ for potential uses in its programs.

Volunteers having completed Hoosier Riverwatch training should continue entering their stream water quality data directly into the Hoosier Riverwatch database online. Indiana Clean Lakes Program (CLP) volunteers enter their field data online and send any samples they collect to the CLP laboratory where they are analyzed, and results are entered into the program’s database.

In addition to volunteers, there are many organizations that use Hoosier Riverwatch methods alongside other methods in their water quality monitoring projects and programs. Organizations using a combination of Hoosier Riverwatch and other methods are encouraged to submit their water quality data through the EDF via the OWQ Secondary Data Portal.

How to Get Started with the EDF

The following pages provide additional information on the EDF and how to participate. The OWQ EDF Frequently Asked Questions is a second additional resource you can use for information on the program.

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