Water-quality data-collection activities in Colorado and Ohio; Phase II, Evaluation of 1984 field and laboratory quality-assurance practices

Open-File Report 87-33

, , , , and



Serious questions have been raised by Congress about the usefulness of water-quality data for addressing issues of regional and national scope and, especially, for characterizing the current quality of the Nation's streams and ground water. In response, the U.S. Geological Survey has undertaken a pilot study in Colorado and Ohio to (1) determine the characteristics of current (1984) water-quality data-collection activities of Federal, regional, State, and local agencies, and academic institutions; and (2) determine how well the data from these activities, collected for various purposes and using different procedures, can be used to improve our ability to answer major broad-scope questions, such as:

A. What are (or were) natural or near-natural water-quality conditions?

B. What are existing water-quality conditions?

C. How has water quality changed, and how do the changes relate to human activities?

Colorado and Ohio were chosen for the pilot study largely because they represent regions with different types of waterquality concerns and programs.

The study has been divided into three phases, the objectives of which are:

Phase I--Inventory water-quality data-collection programs, including costs, and identify those programs that met a set of broad criteria for producing data that are potentially appropriate for water-quality assessments of regional and national scope.

Phase II--Evaluate the quality assurance of field and laboratory procedures used in producing the data from programs that met the broad criteria of Phase I.

Phase III--Compile the qualifying data and evaluate the adequacy of this data base for addressing selected water-quality questions of regional and national scope.

Water-quality data are collected by a large number of organizations for diverse purposes ranging from meeting statutory requirements to research on water chemistry. Combining these individual data bases is an appealing and potentially cost-effective way to attempt to develop a data base adequate for regional or national water-quality assessments. However, to combine data from diverse sources, field and laboratory procedures used to produce the data need to be equivalent and need to meet specific qualityassurance standards. It is these factors that are the focus of Phase II, which is described in this report.

In the first phase of this study, an inventory was made of all public organizations and academic institutions that undertook water-quality data-collection activities in Colorado and Ohio in 1984. Water-quality programs identified in Phase I were tested against a set of broad screening criteria. A total of 44 waterquality programs in Colorado and 29 programs in Ohio passed the Phase-I screen and were examined in Phase II. These programs accounted for an estimated 165,000 analyses in Colorado and 76,300 analyses in Ohio for 20 selected constituents and properties. Although qualifying programs included both surface- and ground-water sampling, they emphasized surface waters and produced few groundwater analyses (3,660 for Colorado and 470 for Ohio).

For Phase II, information about field and laboratory qualityassurance practices was provided by each organization and its supporting laboratories through questionnaires. This information was evaluated against a set of specific criteria for field and laboratory practices. The criteria were developed from guidelines published by public agencies and professional organizations such as the American Public Health Association, the U.Sc, Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Each of the eight criteria that comprise the Phase-II screen fall into one of two major categories--field practices or laboratory practices.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality data-collection activities in Colorado and Ohio; Phase II, Evaluation of 1984 field and laboratory quality-assurance practices
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Columbus, OH
ix, 70 p.
United States
Colorado, Ohio