Information about Submitting Water Quality Data for Maryland’s Integrated Report

Announcements

2020-2022 Integrated Report Data Solicitation

​The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) plans to submit one combined Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality (IR) for the 2020 and 2022 cycles that incorporates all data collected during the applicable extended data window.  For the combined IR, MDE is accepting data from January 1, 2014- December 31, 2019.  In order to be used for the combined 2020-2022 IR, all data must be submitted by January 29, 2021. Data submitted after this date will be reviewed in preparation of the 2024 IR.
 

Partnership with the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative

MDE is pleased to announce that we are partnering with the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative (CMC) to obtain non-governmental organization (NGO) and citizen data for assessing water quality for the Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality. 

The CMC's goal is to connect initiatives across monitoring groups and regions. They provide technical, programmatic, and outreach support in order to integrate volunteer-based water quality and macroinvertebrate monitoring data into a centralized data hub, the Chesapeake Data Explorer. These data are publicly available and used to assess the health of the Chesapeake Bay and watershed.
 
MDE is striving to incorporate more NGO and citizen data into the Integrated Report.  Partnering with the CMC will allow us to reach more groups by sharing the workload of evaluating data quality,  quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) of datasets, organizing, and storing data with the CMC.  The partnership will also provide our data submitters with support and guidance from the CMC and the ease of loading data into one centralized database.  
 
MDE encourages all NGO groups interested in submitting data for the IR, to do so through the CMC's program and the Chesapeake Data Explorer.  MDE and the CMC will be working together to assist groups in this transition.  MDE plans to download data from the CMC's Chesapeake Data Explorer for use in the Integrated Report.  
 
For more information on the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative, please see their website here: https://www.chesapeakemonitoringcoop.org/​

 

Background

As part of the federal Clean Water Act, MDE submits a biennial Integrated Report (IR) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provides information on both impaired and non-impaired waters within the State of Maryland. In order to provide the most comprehensive report, the Department relies on water quality data from a variety of sources including Federal and State agencies, local government agencies, researchers, students, and watershed organizations. 


Data Quality Tiers

For the purposes of evaluating data submitted for Maryland’s Integrated Report, Maryland originally maintained a two-tiered approach to data quality.  For the 2020 IR, Maryland reevaluated the system to promote greater consistency with Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and The Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative and has refined the data evaluation process to incorporate three tiers of data quality.
 
MDE’s data tiers may vary from the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative’s data tiers due to the regulatory basis of the IR.  The MDE tiers are based on data quality and the authorized uses of the data provided to the agency.  The tiers increase from Tier I to Tier III in conjunction with greater data standardization and quality assurance/ quality control (QA/QC) protocols.  Definitions and uses of each tier are outlined below. 
 

Tier III- Approved by MDE

Definition: Tier III data are legally defensible data that can be used for regulatory decision-making purposes.
 
Appropriate Data Uses:
  • List or delist waters (Category 2 or Category 5) on the Integrated Report (IR);
  • Assess waters for IR;
  • Attainment purposes;
  • Use with State data for TMDL development, and
  • All uses listed in Tiers I and II.
Requirements:
  • These data must be accompanied by a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) consistent with EPA data guidance specified in Guidance for Quality Assurance Project Plans (U.S. EPA 2002a). Click here for the EPA guidance on QAPPs.
  • Documentation of field sampling and/or lab testing protocols or SOPs required.
  • This information must be consistent with Maryland’s Assessment Methodologies.
 

Tier II - Partially Approved by MDE

Definition: Tier II data are data with a defined methodology but do not meet Tier III data requirements and are not used to make regulatory assessment decisions (Category 2 or Category 5 of the IR).  However, waters with this level of data may be placed in Category 3 of the IR, denoting that there are insufficient data to make an assessment but that follow up monitoring is necessary.
 
 Appropriate Data Uses:
  • Track performance of TMDL implementation;
  • Category 3 designations for the IR;
  • Help target stream segments for water quality standards attainment assessments;
  • Be used as initial screening for listing or delisting waters (Category 2 or Category 5) on the Integrated Report (IR);
  • Identify waters for MDE follow up monitoring, and
  • All uses listed in Tier I.
Requirements:
  • These data should be accompanied by a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) consistent with EPA data guidance specified in Guidance for Quality Assurance Project Plans (U.S. EPA 2002a) or other equivalent documentation.
  • Field sampling and/or lab testing protocols or SOPs.
  • This information may use a monitoring method similar to MDE protocols but not fully approved by MDE due to differences in sampling or testing methodology.  
 

 Tier I- Not Approved by MDE for Assessment

Definition: Tier I data do not meet the requirements of Tier II and Tier III but are of known quality and as a result still contribute to understanding of the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
 
Appropriate Data Uses:
  • Educational or outreach purposes;
  • Location information on where monitoring is taking place;
  • Baseline data;
  • Notification of Possible Pollution Events;
  • Assess the general condition of surface waters in Maryland;
  • Identify waters for MDE follow up monitoring, and
  • Highlight local, community projects that are implemented to improve the health of the Bay watershed.
Requirements:
  • No Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) or SOP required by MDE.
  • Uniform methodology recommended.
  • QAPP, SOPs and/or lab methods do not meet MDE quality assurance/quality control requirements.
  • May include land use data, visual observations of water quality condition, or data not consistent with Maryland’s Assessment Methodologies.
** Much of this text for this section was borrowed from Virginia DEQ and Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative webpages on their Data Levels or Tiers.   https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityMonitoring/CitizenMonitoring/Guidance.aspx,  and https://www.chesapeakemonitoringcoop.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Tiered-Framework.pdf

Parameters

The purpose of the Integrated Report is to identify and list waters not meeting water quality standards (see Code of Maryland Regulations 26.08.02).  The most frequently assessed parameters for the Integrated Report include pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), turbidity (in NTU), biology, and bacteria.  Maryland does not have water quality criteria for some commonly monitored parameters such as nutrients, suspended solids, or water clarity for nontidal waters (Secchi depth).  

Bacteria is a popular parameter to monitor, but its use for recreational criteria, especially in non-beach areas, needs to be carefully considered.  Before submitting bacteria data for the Integrated Report, please see our Fact Sheet: Considerations for Bacteria Sampling at Non-Beach Areas.  Please contact Heather Merritt at Heather.Merritt@maryland.gov or Becky Monahan at Becky.Monahan@maryland.gov with questions about using bacteria data for the Integrated Report.  

For additional information about water quality standards, please visit MDE's Water Quality Standards Page. For more information on assessment methodologies, please visit MDE's Assessment Methodologies Page.

How to Submit Data to MDE

All organizations interested in submitting data for the combined 2020-2022 Integrated Report should fill out this Information Form
 
Then, there are two pathways to submit data: 
  1. Organizations that currently work with the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative (CMC)
    • ​​Please submit the information form above.  Then MDE will pull the applicable data from the Chesapeake Data Explorer on or near February 1, 2021.  Please work with Liz Chudoba at the CMC to ensure that your data are up to date in the Data Explorer.  Email Liz at lchudoba@allianceforthebay.org with any questions. 
  2. ​All other organizations
    • ​​Please submit the information form above.  Then email data directly to Becky Monahan at Becky.Monahan@maryland.gov.  If the dataset is large, a google drive sharing option can be set up.  Please include a brief description of your data and all applicable metadata including Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs).  
Because the IR is a regulatory document, some data received may not be suitable for water quality assessments. In addition, data pulled from the Chesapeake Data Explorer may be in a different data tier for MDE assessment purposes.  Please see more information in our MDE Data Quality Tiers section below. The Department will track all data received and data submitters can contact MDE to inquire how their data were used and why.  
 
Please contact Becky Monahan at 410-537-3947 or Becky.Monahan@maryland.gov with any questions related to data submission.
 

Need Technical Assistance for your Monitoring Program?

MDE and its partners can help your organization with monitoring program design to ensure the desired purpose is met to let you know state data needs. Please contact Becky Monahan at Becky.Monahan@maryland.gov for more information.​

For additional IR information, please visit MDE’s Integrated Report Web page.