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Tools to Evaluate Our Progress

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Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. -Albert Einstein

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Environmental Indicators and the Logic Model are two of the tools that EPA's mid-Atlantic Water program is using to evaluate progress toward our goals.

Environmental Indicators

An environmental indicator measures the condition of the environment and its change over time. For EPA, this is a numerical value. Some types of environmental indicators related to water include the administrative activities we do to help improve water quality, such as permitting, enforcement or grant actions, and reducing pollutant loads to a stream. Other indicators measure the result of our actions, such as improvements in ambient conditions or the overall health of a watershed.

Indicators range from the number of administrative actions to measurable changes in the health of the environment.

Indicators are used to measure and communicate environmental status and trends as well as progress toward our goals. For a given goal, there are typically dozens of related indicators of various types. Some indicators are more useful than others. To help distinguish these differences, we assign ranks from 1 to 6 to each indicator. For instance, the number of "plans" developed to improve the environment would be assigned a Level 1 or 2, an administrative measure. At this level we believe that the plans developed by EPA and other organizations will help the environment. The number of fish returning to a stream, a Level 6 indicator, would demonstrate actual improvement in the environment. Also, sometimes the data that supports an indicator may be more complete for one indicator than another. To assist in their use, EPA has established criteria for how indicators are chosen.

The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), in its 2007 publication, "Taking Environmental Protection to the Next Level," (PDF) (45 pp, 3.5MB, About PDF)Exit EPA Click for Disclaimerrecommends a comprehensive look at all impaired waters using indicators as a guide.

EPA's National Water Program Guidance also lays out goals for the EPA regional offices to achieve. Those relating to the mid-Atlantic Region are:

Each of these goals has a number of program activity measures (PAMs), which are indicators used to measure progress towards our goals.

Logic Model

The Logic Model is a picture of how an organization does its work. It helps everyone see what works and why. This tool links the expected outcome of a program or project to its individual activities and processes. EPA's mid-Atlantic Region has adapted a model developed by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, a recognized leader in the development and practical application of this tool Logic Model Development Guide Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer. The Region’s Water Protection Division is using this model as its organizational planning tool to maximize outcomes for the water environment through efficient targeting of our resources.

Logic Model - Modified Kellogg
Short & Long-term Outcomes
What is the condition of the things we care about? What resources do we need in order to accomplish our set of activities? In order of importance, what are the stressors and where are they most prevalent? These are used to target activities. What activities will we accomplish in order to address our problem or asset? We expect that once accomplished these activities will produce what evidence or service delivery? We expect that if accomplished, these activities will lead to what changes in 1 - 3 then 4 - 6 years? We expect that if accomplished, these activities will lead to what changes in 7 - 10 years?

We are currently applying the Logic Model and its data to answer these key questions:

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