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

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. 
 
MDE accepts data on a continual basis. However, in order to be used for the 2020 IR, all data must be submitted by June 14, 2019. Data submitted after this date will be reviewed in preparation of the 2022 IR. 
 
 

New Data Levels

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 current system to promote greater consistency with Virginia DEQ and The Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative and has refined the data evaluation process to incorporate three levels of data quality.   The levels are based upon both the level of data quality and the authorized uses of the data provided to the agency. These levels increase in rank from Level I to Level III based on increasing levels of MDE approved QA/QC protocols.  Definitions of each level and how groups can achieve a particular level are outlined below. 
 

Level 3- Approved by MDE

Definition: Level 3 data are regulatory, decision-making, legally defensible data.
 
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
  • All uses listed in Levels 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 (see Section C.2).
 

Level 2- Partially Approved by MDE

Definition: Level 2 data are data with a defined methodology but do not meet Level 3 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
  • All uses listed in Level 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.  
 

 Level 1- Not Approved by MDE for Assessment

Definition: Level 1 data include programs whose data do not meet the requirements of Level 2 and Level 3 but are of known quality and as a result still contribute to understanding of the health of the 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
  • 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
 
 

How to Submit Data to MDE

All water quality data should be submitted via our new google form found here.  The form will assist the organization in providing the metadata required along with the attached data and documentation. Because the IR is a regulatory document, some data received may not be suitable for water quality assessments. However, 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.
 

Additional requirements for biological data (fish and/or benthic macroinvertebrates):

  • To be used for the Integrated Report assessments, biological data must be collected according to the Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS) protocols. 
  • Due to the complexities of biological data submission, data submitters are strongly encouraged to contact Tim Fox prior submitting biological datasets.  Mr. Fox can be reached at 410-537-3958 or alternately through email at Tim.Fox@maryland.gov.
 

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.