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Nonpoint Source Water Pollution

Nonpoint Source > Watershed Assessment > Impaired Waters - Integrated Report > External Data and Listings > Framework Requirements for Level 2 Data Framework Requirements for Level 2 Data

Potential Use of Your Data by OWQ

In addition to any Level 1 use, water quality data meeting the data quality and other requirements for Level 2 may be used either directly or indirectly by OWQ for the following:

  • Supplemental information for use in planning and prioritization of OWQ monitoring efforts or TMDL development;
  • Establishing need for low interest loans to assist with regional sewer and water district (RSWD) formation;
  • Demonstrating the effectiveness of TMDL implementation efforts;
  • Demonstrating the effectiveness of watershed management plan implementation efforts over time;
  • Baseline data collection for analysis of trends over time;
  • Watershed management planning; and,
  • Demonstrating compliance with minimum control measures specified in municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) permits.

The use of Level 2 data as supplemental information for TMDL development or establishing need for low interest loans in RSWD formation are examples of how OWQ might use your data directly. Indirect uses are those in which OWQ does not incorporate the data directly into program processes. Rather, data is collected by participating external organizations to meet various program requirements. For example, most watershed management plans are developed by grantees with OWQ NPS program grant funds. While OWQ does not develop the watershed plan, the data collected and submitted by grantees must be rigorous enough to be used for planning purposes. Similarly, monitoring to demonstrate compliance with MS4 permits is conducted by the MS4 entity rather than OWQ. For these uses, OWQ does not use a prescriptive approach to monitoring. Instead, grantees and MS4 entities are allowed the flexibility to determine the specifics of their monitoring plans.


Decisions such as sample design, parameters, methods, etc. are based on the needs at the local level.

In order to maintain flexibility and to support monitoring activities, IDEM’s framework is intended to provide guidelines for external organizations to determine the parameters and data quality objectives they should build into their monitoring activities. Many of the indirect uses for Level 2 data involve decision making by external organizations based on the data collected. It is important that they are based on reliable data, as those decisions often involve additional resources. Whether used directly by OWQ programs, or indirectly by OWQ program participants, water quality data must possess a moderate level of scientific rigor to be reliable for Level 2 uses.

Data Quality Documentation and OWQ Review

A QAPP is required for NPS program grant projects that conduct monitoring. QAPPs must be submitted for approval by OWQ prior to the initiation of monitoring activities. For all other organizations submitting data for potential Level 2 uses, other documentation may be acceptable if it provides sufficient information for quality control determinations. Guidance and technical assistance is available to assist your organization in developing appropriate documentation for Level 2 submissions.

Table 3 provides generalized requirements for Level 2 data. More specific acceptance criteria for Level 2 uses are provided in following sections.

Table 3: Generalized Acceptance Criteria for Level 2 Data
Characteristics of the Data Set Generalized Acceptance Criteria for Level 2 Data
Age of data Any age data may be considered for this Level. However, data that is less than or equal to five years of age will be considered more reliable.
Sampling design Sampling design should be appropriate for the intended use of the data and may be either synoptic or probabilistic. For NPS program grant projects, OWQ will review the sampling design to determine whether the study provides representative data for the project needs. For all other external organizations, OWQ will review the sampling design to determine the Level 2 uses for which the data may be reliable.
Comparability Data submitted for Level 2 uses need not be equivalent to data collected by OWQ. Organizations are encouraged to use comparable sampling, analytical methods and QC protocols where possible. Technical assistance is provided to help external organizations enhance the comparability of their data to that of OWQ.
Geographic Information Location information is required. Data submitted by NPS program grant projects must be submitted electronically in GIS-compatible format. All other organizations may submit their location information in hardcopy or electronic format. GIS-compatible formats are preferred. Site location information must be sufficient to identify the specific waterbody to which the water quality results apply.
Submission requirements (e.g. formatting, required components, etc.) Data submitted by NPS program grant projects must be submitted in NPS-AIMS format. All other organizations may submit their data in any electronic spreadsheet or database file. NPS-AIMS format is preferred, and templates are available. Entry into the AIMS database of data submitted in other electronic formats may be delayed if significant effort is required to reformat the data.
Documentation of data quality (metadata for the data set) A QAPP is not required unless data collection is funded with a NPS program grant. If required, the QAPP must meet requirements established by IDEM's NPS program. Other documentation may be acceptable if it provides sufficient information to ascertain the quality of data.

Sampling and Analytical Methods

For most Level 2 uses a wide variety of sampling and analytical procedures is acceptable, procedures comparable to those employed by OWQ is not required, as these decisions are based on an organization’s needs. However, the more comparable an organization’s methods are to OWQ methods, the more applications can be made of your data.

A list of parameters and methods suitable for many of the Level 2 uses identified in the framework is provided in Appendix B. This list should not be considered comprehensive. Rather, it is intended to provide a suite of parameters and methods appropriate to the most common water quality issues. These concerns and the types of parameters most commonly monitored are summarized in Table 4. Organizations interested in monitoring for any parameters not shown are encouraged to contact the external data coordinator for assistance in selecting appropriate sampling and analytical methods based on their project needs.

Table 4: Water Quality Concerns and Parameter Types
Parameter Type Water Quality Concern
Chemical parameters including toxicants, nutrients and conventional inorganics. Identifying potential chemical stressors to biological communities in rivers and streams; and,

Determining representative background conditions for a given chemical in ambient water.
Biological communities including benthic aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish. Determining the health of biological communities in rivers and streams.
Habitat measurements Determining the extent to which habitat may play a role in any biological community impairments identified.
Bacteria (E. coli) Determining whether the concentrations of E. coli in a waterbody exceed the state water quality standards for recreational uses; and,

Determining representative background conditions for E. coli in ambient water.
Total phosphorus and Chlorophyll a Determining whether nutrient concentrations in lakes and reservoirs may be excessive such that they could result in excessive algal blooms.

Site Location Considerations

Data collected on any surface water in Indiana is potentially useful for Level 2 processes, regardless of the scope of the study or the geographic scale of the data. It is anticipated that the monitoring conducted by most external organizations is targeted in nature. However, statistical studies with randomly selected sites may also be useful to OWQ. Data from such studies can be applied on both a site-specific basis and the statistical conclusions may provide supplementary information for developing TMDLs or reports to U.S. EPA.

Frequency and Timing of Monitoring Activities

Level 2 decision making processes do not have specific requirements regarding when samples should be collected. For all types of data, OWQ will review the timing and frequency of your monitoring activities within the context of OWQ needs. Typical monitoring needs include the following:

  • The Watershed Monitoring program conducts sampling for water chemistry under different flow regimes during three distinct timeframes: May through June, July through August, and September through October. This program also conducts fish community assessments, macroinvertebrate community assessments and habitat assessments once a year at these same sites during the seasonal low-flow timeframe, which falls from July through October;
  • The Nutrients Monitoring program collects water chemistry and two measures of algal biomass, chlorophyll a and ash free dry mass at many of the same sites selected for the Watershed Monitoring program. This data is collected three times per year in late spring, summer and fall;
  • The Fixed Station program collects water chemistry samples, bacteriological samples and field analytical data monthly at fixed station locations throughout the state;
  • The Trace Metals program collects samples for dissolved metals analyses at selected sites throughout the state on a quarterly basis. This program also collects field analytical data and samples for some non-metal parameters;
  • The Fish Tissue Contaminant Monitoring program collects samples once per year at each site; and,
  • The E. coli Monitoring program monitors each site five times with sampling events equally spaced over a 30-day period.

Fact sheets for these and other OWQ monitoring programs are available through IDEM Web sites for the Surveys Section and the Biological Studies Section, found in the OWQ Assessment Branch.

Minimum Data Requirements

All data submitted is potentially usable for OWQ Level 2 uses provided it meets Level 2 data quality requirements. The framework does not establish minimum data requirements for Level 2. Rather, it is understood that the amount of data your organization collects is most appropriately determined by the individual needs of your project. The external data framework provides technical assistance in selecting parameters for your study and assists in determining the appropriate amount of data.

Quality Control Procedures

Monitoring for Level 2 should include sufficient QA/QC activities to ensure that the resulting data is reliable for the intended use. While external quality controls are optional, some internal quality controls are required to consider your data reliable for Level 2 uses. Examples of internal and external quality controls are provided in Appendix B. Also included is a summary of field quality control checks and laboratory quality control checks.

Field quality control checks are measures used to assess the quality of field data. Laboratory quality control checks are measures used to assess the quality of the data results from the analytical procedures performed in the laboratory.

Data Quality Requirements

Although most Level 2 uses are non-regulatory, any data submitted for consideration in OWQ’s Level 2 processes must possess a moderate to high level of scientific rigor to be considered reliable. Because monitoring projects vary significantly in detail and scope, it is expected that data quality objectives will likewise vary from project to project. When data sets are received through the framework, OWQ will review the data against Level 2 acceptance criteria to determine their reliability.

OWQ has established acceptance criteria for many of the parameters and associated methods appropriate to the most common water quality issues and the types of monitoring activities commonly conducted. For monitoring activities funded with an NPS program grant, the acceptance criteria represents the minimum data quality requirements for Level 2. For all other organizations, Level 2 acceptance criteria represent data quality guidelines appropriate to Level 2 uses.

In addition to the generalized acceptance criteria in Table 3, OWQ has established specific acceptance criteria for Level 2 uses based on the following data quality indicators: precision, bias, accuracy, representativeness, comparability, completeness and sensitivity.

OWQ’s acceptance criteria for laboratory analytical results for water samples are provided in Appendix B and are expressed in terms of precision and accuracy. In addition to precision and accuracy, OWQ will review your data submission for other data quality indicators:

  • Comparability: Are the sources of the sampling and analytical methods documented such that the comparability of the data to other data sets can be ascertained?
  • Representativeness: Is the study design capable of providing representative data for the intended Level 2 uses?
  • Completeness: Does the data set contain the sufficient number of valid results to meet the intended Level 2 uses?

For laboratory data sets, qualified results may be acceptable for Level 2 uses. Therefore, it is important to include in your documentation definitions for any data qualifiers and flags associated with your data.

Acceptance criteria for biological community data is based on the sampling methods used, the sensitivity of the analytical methods (i.e. the taxonomic level of identification) and the level of taxonomic expertise or training level of the individual performing the identifications. More detailed information on OWQ’s acceptance criteria for biological data is provided in Appendix B.

Data Reporting Requirements

Any data provided for Level 2 uses must be submitted electronically. Data submitted by NPS program grant projects must be submitted in NPS-AIMS format. All other organizations may submit their data in any electronic spreadsheet or database file. However, NPS-AIMS format is preferred. Templates are provided to assist with electronic submission in NPS-AIMS format. Entry into the AIMS database of data submitted in other electronic formats may be delayed if significant effort is required to reformat the data.

Relevant Manuals and Resources

In addition to the resources listed above, the OWQ NPS program provides a number of guidance documents to assist OWQ NPS program grantees in developing their monitoring plans and QAPPs, as well as formatting their data in NPS-AIMS format. Other organizations interested in submitting data for Level 2 uses may find this information useful.

3) Although the MS4 Program is a regulatory program, the types of monitoring necessary to demonstrate compliance with the minimum control measures in MS4 permits have not been established by U.S. EPA or IDEM OWQ. The external data framework is intended to provide MS4 entities with guidance in this regard and should not be interpreted as a requirement of the program. For MS4 entities, participation in the framework is voluntary.