Overview - Assessing the Watershed
After you have established your watershed partnership and have begun the important task of publicizing your efforts and educating the public, the data gathering begins. Your group will be organizing a detective force to gather all available information on the watershed drainage area by reviewing maps, mining records, and other documents; talking to local people who are familiar with the specific mines; and conducting watershed assessments. Collecting existing and new information on the watershed drainage area is very important. Identification and characterization of AMD problem sites will determine and prioritize where clean-up projects will be conducted.
Maps, mining records, and other documents can be obtained from OSM (Ofc. of Surface Mining), state mining agencies, state geological surveys, county clerks and property assessors, local historians, residents, archives, libraries, or sometimes from former employees. Much of the existing information and data pertaining to natural resources is organized by counties, states, and school districts. State water quality agencies prepare Water Quality Inventory Reports every two years' as required by Congress under Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act These reports contain data on stream monitoring, physical evaluations, problem areas, and other important information.
A good way of obtaining this information is to conduct a background search on your watershed.
Investigating the Watershed
After you have collected background information on your watershed, you will probably want to get out in the field and take water quality measurements to determine if there are areas impacted by AMD discharges. The following section provides an overview of the tools commonly used in stream assessments, instructions on how to delineate a watershed, and recommendations for selecting sampling sites. References to obtain more detailed information on stream assessments is provided in the Resource Information section.
The Field Crew
The watershed assessment will most likely involve a host of volunteers. A lot of people who attend your meetings want to do something-they aren't happy sitting around talking about organizational issues, funding research, or deciding who is going to be on the communications committee. Many of them will find their niche through the field work aspect of the project. There is a lot of work involved, but it is rewarding, interesting and often enjoyable.
Proper organization, supervision, and management of field work is absolutely essential if your findings are going to be used as the basis for a clean-up program. It is important to obtain professional help when defining and conducting the actual data collection process. If you have water quality or mining agency people in your partnership who are willing to handle the field assessment, let them. Agency personnel can sometimes train field volunteers, supervise them, and manage the investigation. In addition, established environmental organizations such as the River Network and the Izaak Walton League, etc. may be able to provide training. For more information on these different organizations, refer to the Resource Information section at the end of this chapter.
Conducting the Watershed Assessment
Once you have decided to assess your watershed, there are steps to follow. It is a good idea to prepare a map of the watershed, if one is not already available. Sampling points for the assessment must also be determined. It is a good idea to choose sites that may become permanent monitoring stations to ensure consistency of data. Use the assessment to determine and identify the pollution sources in the watershed. Identifying the sources will allow action to be taken and make it much easier to adjust sampling sites to monitor the results of any intervention.
This information was taken from EPA Office of Water publication Protecting and Restoring America's Watersheds, EPA-840-R-00-001.
See Water Quality Assessment for an Overview of the subject.
A Model Plan for Watershed Restoration A collaborative multi-agency model for watershed restoration planning. Assessment is part of the process.
Water Quality - Aquatic Life Use Attainability Surveys DEP Fact Sheet
Water Quality - Cause/Effect Aquatic Biological Surveys DEP Fact Sheet