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Mid-Atlantic Network (MIDN)

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Water Quality & Quantity Monitoring

Valley Creek at Valley Forge NHP
Valley Creek at Valley Forge NHP

Water Quality & Quantity Resource Briefs

Water Quality & Quantity Monitoring Reports

Water Quality & Quantity Monitoring Protocol

For more information contact: Nathan Dammeyer

Justification

Water chemistry has ecological significance because the chemical composition (including nutrient content) of surface water is a critical attribute of aquatic habitats and an integrator of hydro-biogeochemical conditions and processes occurring throughout associated watersheds. The data obtained through water chemistry monitoring thus serve to indicate current and changing ecological conditions in both surface waters and watersheds.

Water quantity has ecological significance as a basic property of aquatic habitat. Changes in water availability that occur on both long and short time scales (e.g., multi-year, seasonal, and episodic) can directly affect aquatic communities. In addition, water chemistry varies with discharge due to differences in surface runoff, soil contact, and other factors that affect biogeochemical processes and material transport. The data obtained through water quantity monitoring thus provide a direct measure of habitat condition and support interpretation of data obtained through water chemistry monitoring.

Water chemistry and quantity have management and policy significance because the National Park Service (NPS) is legally required to protect pristine water quality and improve impaired water quality. Streams and rivers managed by the NPS must meet State and Federal water quality criteria as defined by the Clean Water Act (CWA). In addition, the NPS is required by the Government Performance and Reporting Act (GPRA) to establish and evaluate attainment of goals for meeting water quality criteria.

Monitoring Objectives

  1. Document the status of and trends in water quality as influenced by point source and non-point source pollution (including atmospheric deposition).
  2. Determine the natural range of variability in water chemistry (including bacterial composition).
  3. Detect water quality measures that exceed threshold values and determine their compliance with state and federal water quality standards.
  4. Document the status of and long-term trends in water flow.
  5. Document changes in stream channel characteristics at sampling sites.

Network Park Units Monitored

A stream in winter  at Shenandoah National Park
A stream in winter at Shenandoah National Park

Water Quality & Quantity Resource Briefs

Water Quality & Quantity Monitoring Reports

Water Quality & Quantity Protocol Documents

An updated water quality sampling protocol is currently under development.

For more information contact: Jalyn Cummings

Justification

The Blue Ridge physiographic province within MIDN contains portions of the headwaters for three major watersheds: the Rappahannock, the Shenandoah, and the James Rivers. Each of these rivers eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The streams are formed from numerous springs, some of which are located near the ridge tops. The water from these springs is very cool and, on its downhill journey, forms the numerous high gradient and highly oxygenated streams found in the park. Due to the protection of the surrounding forests, the water in these streams is of high quality and low in sediment load.

As a result of high air pollution levels, atmospheric deposition is the greatest threat to protected mountain streams. Acid precipitation, a type of atmospheric deposition that is primarily linked to fossil fuel combustion, is lowering water pH in some extremely sensitive streams both chronically and episodically.

The low buffering capacity of a large percentage of soils in the park provides limited protection from acid depositions. Because of the sensitivity of the streams to acidification, long-term monitoring of stream water chemistry and hydrogeochemical processes is a major component of the Inventory and Monitoring Program

Monitoring Objectives

  1. Document the status of and trends in water quality as influenced by point source and non-point source pollution (including atmospheric deposition).
  2. Determine the natural range of variability in water chemistry (including bacterial composition).
  3. Detect water quality measures that exceed threshold values and determine their compliance with state and federal water quality standards.
  4. Document the status of and long-term trends in water flow.
  5. Document changes in stream channel characteristics at sampling sites.

Network Park Units Monitored

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Last Updated: July 14, 2017 Contact Webmaster