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EPA New England Regional Laboratory (Office of Environmental Measurement and Evaluation)

Questions and Answers about the Report Card

Q. Can I show water quality trends on the report card?

A.  Currently, the Report Card presentation shows trends by showing multiple report cards for separate reporting periods. This may be adequate for displaying two reporting periods separated in time. A potential other way to show trends would be to display an arrow in the individual boxes of the report card indicating the direction of a trend. This could be displayed on one of the 4 existing report card pages or on a new, separate, page.  A possible third way would be to use various shades of color that indicate trends. We understand the importance of this question and will work on presenting an alternative for the spreadsheet application. In the meantime we invite your ideas.

Q. Can the Report Card be used for different types of waterbodies?

A. Yes. The report card design was based on generic information required for Water Quality Assessment Reports (Section 305 (b) reporting) and applies to all waterbody types. The initial application of the Report Card was for river/stream segments in Massachusetts. However it is easily adapted for lakes reporting. An example of this is found in Section 6 of the report "Gauging the Health of New England's Lakes and Ponds, NEIWPCC and US EPA, October 2010. In this application you may want to consider expanding the criteria for the "nutrients "column to include all indicators of lake trophic state. We haven't seen examples of the report card for marine or estuarine waters but the format is theoretically sound. In marine waters the temperature is of such importance that it may be worthy of a separate reporting column. In summary, all waterbody types can be easily presented in the watershed report card format but the indicator "bundles" being used for each column might differ.

Q. Can additional beneficial use goals be added to the report card?

A. Yes. The report card was designed to display the interim fishable/swimmable  goals of the Federal Clean Water Act (FCWA). These uses are aquatic life, recreation (primary and secondary) and fish edibility. These four uses are common to all states. States may have other state specific beneficial uses such as water supply, shellfishing or designated bathing beach etc. However, there is a value in limiting the report card to its existing reporting uses for its makes it universal to states and comparable at the national level.  The temptation will be to add on additional state beneficial uses and the report card is adaptable to this.

Q. What are the implications of using the report card to 303d reporting?

A. Each state must complete water quality assessments (305b) and impaired waters lists (303d) as FCWA requirements. The report card was designed for 305b reporting requirements.  However the report card may be useful in generating or reporting the 303d. For example one could choose a severity of impairment (from the conditions card) and a level of confidence (from the metadata card) as screening criteria to define the actual list. The causes and sources of pollution could be selected from their corresponding cards. In one such scenario the state could derive the 303d list from those waterbodies that were severely impaired ("red") on the conditions card with a level of confidence of 3 or higher on the metadata card. Other combinations are possible depending on the criteria the individual state prefers.The benefits of having all the data available and well organized may help states to be more transparent in the 303d reporting process.

Q. Can the report card be used for different watershed scales?

A. The report card was developed to conform to existing 305b reporting requirements. In Massachusetts this meant the scale was set for river segments 3-10 miles long for 3rd order or larger streams. However the report card can be used for any scale that is adaptable to the 305b reporting elements. Therefore any scale where reporting uses, causes, sources and metadata are relevant can use the report card. The report card can tell a "story" about water resources. It is important to consider the story you wish to communicate as you lay out the report card. For example, the Massachusetts report card list segments in hydrologic order so that pollutants can be followed downstream. Important tributaries are listed at key locations along with the mainstem where lesser tributaries may be reported on a separate page. This highlights the areas where programs need to be implemented or data needs to be collected.

Q.  Does the Excel spreadsheet have any operational limitations?

A.  The spreadsheet was created using Excel version 2007 on a Microsoft PC. It does not function completely with v2003 and earlier versions of Excel, but should operate properly with v2010 (although it has not been tested).  The program employs macros, so you may be challenged with a security warning upon opening the spreadsheet. The warning is an inconspicuous message near the upper left corner of the "Ribbon" in the v2007. Elect to "Enable the macros".  Please contact John Kiddon (kiddon.john@epa.gov; 401-782-3044) if you experience difficulties or are using earlier versions of Excel.

Q.  Can the Excel tool be adapted to display different metrics and goal-uses?

A.  The current spreadsheet was developed as a "proof of concept" exercise, based on the Massachusetts report card concept devised by Warren Kimball, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. In principle, the spreadsheet can be restructured by someone familiar with Excel's VBA programming (macros) and "User Form" capabilities. Once we get a sense of how potential users wish to adapt the report cards, we plan to revise the Excel tool to allow the user to more readily reconfigure the structure of the report cards. Please contact John Kiddon (kiddon.john@epa.gov; 401-782-3044) regarding spreadsheet adaptations and redesign.

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