Tools to Evaluate Our Progress
- Environmental Indicators Gateway
- EPA's Report on the Environment
- Aquatic Indicators
- Biological Indicators Ecological Research
- Biological Indicators of Watershed Health
- Children and the Environment – Available Measures
- Indicators & Linkages for Communities
- National Water Program Guidance
- Regional Vulnerability Assessment
- Risk Screening Environmental Indicators
- The State of the Nation's Ecosystems - Heinz Center
- Watershed Indicators - Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources
- Water Quality Indicators & Trends - Delaware Center for the Inland Bays
- State of the Maryland Coastal Bays (PDF) (5pp, 4MB, About PDF)
- The Reduction of Toxics in State Waters Report - Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. -Albert Einstein
On this page
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 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)recommends 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:
- Water Safe to Drink
- Fish and Shellfish Safe to Eat
- Water Safe for Swimming
- Restore and Improve Water Quality on a Watershed Basis
- Protect Coastal and Ocean Waters
- Protect Wetlands
- Protect the Great Lakes
- Protect the Chesapeake Bay
Each of these goals has a number of program activity measures (PAMs), which are indicators used to measure progress towards our goals.
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 . 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:
- What pollutants are impairing our waters and where are they coming from?
- What are we doing to reduce those pollutant loads and how are we tracking the sources?
- What new or modified strategies can we develop for the future?