Quality Assurance Project Plans for Tribes in Region 10
A Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) is a written document that describes your plan for collecting and using environmental data. Grantees that develop QAPPs must obtain approval for the QAPP from EPA (or from states or tribes with delegated QAPP approval authority) before starting environmental data activities.
Here are a few examples of projects that typically require a QAPP:
- Air and water quality sampling.
- Baseline data surveys.
- Bird/wildlife surveys.
- Erosion studies.
- Fish consumption studies or surveys.
- Photo surveys.
Contact your EPA Tribal Coordinator if you are planning a project that involves environmental data.
Learn more about how EPA manages the quality of its environmental information.
Below are some questions to think about when designing a project that collects or uses environmental data. With the answers in hand, you will be better prepared to describe your project.
- What is the overall problem you are trying to solve?
- What are the specific questions you want this project to answer?
- Is there an existing state or federal standard on this topic? How does my community compare to the standard?
- What research have others done on this topic and what equipment have they used successfully?
- What will my tribe do with the results?
Some tribes write the QAPP themselves, often working with subject matter experts at EPA or another organization that provides training and technical assistance. Writing a QAPP may seem overwhelming at first, but it is also a superb opportunity to increase your environmental knowledge and build expertise within your tribe.
Some tribes prefer to hire a consultant who has in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. Available funding, workload, and complexity of the project will inform your decision.
A consortium may be able to develop an "umbrella QAPP" for multiple tribes doing the same kind of project (for example, water sampling).
You may wish to discuss your approach with your EPA Tribal Coordinator.
Each QAPP must include all 24 elements listed below. Your QAPP will be returned if it does not address each element. However, not all elements are relevant to all projects. If a question does not apply to the project you are designing, simply note that and move on to the next element.
Group A: Project Management
- Title & Approval Sheet
- Table of Contents
- Distribution List
- Project/Task Organization
- Problem Definition & Background
- Project/Task Description
- Quality Objectives & Criteria
- Documentation & Records
Group B: Data Generation & Acquisition
- Network Description
- Sampling Methods
- Sample Handling & Custody
- Analytical Methods
- Quality Control
- Instrument/Equipment Testing, Inspection & Maintenance
- Instrument/Equipment Calibration & Frequency
- Inspection/Acceptance of Supplies & Consumables
- Non-Direct Measurements
- Data Management
Group C: Assessment & Oversight
- Assessment & Response Actions
- Reports to Management
Group D: Data Validation & Usability Elements
- Data Review, Verification & Validation
- Verification & Validation Methods
- Reconciliation with User Requirement
EPA has several templates tribes can use to start their QAPP. Many training providers also provide topic-specific templates or tools. EPA’s Quality Assurance Manager and subject matter experts can advise you on which template to use for your project.
EPA templates include:
- Quality Assurance Project Plan Development Tool: This tool contains information to help grantees develop a QAPP for projects that involve surface or groundwater monitoring and/or the collection and analysis of water samples. The tool takes you, step by step, through the thought process of planning a project and provides a framework for documenting your plan.
- Quality Assurance Handbook and Guidance Documents for Citizen Science Projects: A citizen science project typically involves the local community and volunteers to collect data. Often, a citizen science template can be used for a less complex project that does not need to meet a regulatory standard.
- EPA Region 10 Tribal QAPP Guidance and Template (docx) This template from EPA Region 10 includes sample text for a water monitoring project, but can be adapted for any topic.
In addition, the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) offers Turbo-QAPP, an online program similar to Turbo-TaxTM that allows tribes to write QAPPs interactively.
Once your draft QAPP is complete, submit it to your EPA Tribal Coordinator for review and approval. A subject-matter expert at EPA will review the document and send comments within 30 days. The QAPP is complete once all comments have been addressed and EPA and the tribe have signed the final document.
To make minor changes to the QAPP (e.g., changes to personnel, schedule, sampling locations, site access, or sampling methodologies), please submit a list of changes and a revised approval page to your EPA Tribal Coordinator and EPA Region 10’s Quality Assurance Manager.
Alternatively, tribes may fill out and submit the following Sample Plan Alteration Form:
QAPPs should be reviewed annually and updated at least once every five years.
Please note that changes to the project goal or the data quality objectives require a new QAPP submittal.
EPA Region 10 uses the following checklist when reviewing a QAPP. The checklist will help grantees better understand EPA’s evaluation criteria.
EPA Guidance Documents
- EPA Requirements for Quality Assurance Plans: Provides the QAPP requirements for organizations that conduct environmental data operations.
- Guidance for Quality Assurance Project Plans: Provides details, suggestions, and examples to help guide a user through the QAPP development process.
Examples of QAPPs can help you visualize the final product and possibly generate ideas for your project.
To request a copy of an EPA-approved QAPP on your topic, contact your EPA Tribal Coordinator, EPA Region 10's Quality Assurance Manager, or one of the QAPP training providers listed at Training and Technical Assistance for Tribes in Region 10.
When reviewing other tribes’ QAPPs, please note:
- Every QAPP is different. Your QAPP may be shorter or longer or more or less complex depending on the problem you are trying to solve.
- Your QAPP needs to address your tribe’s specific conditions. QAPPs that contain text from another QAPP that does not apply will be returned to the tribe.
EPA and many other organizations offer training on how to develop a QAPP.
- Writing a Quality Assurance Project Plan (see our Region 10 Tribal Environmental Webinars page).
- Quality Assurance Project Plans: An EPA Region 10 Guide to Developing a Successful Project Plan (Microsoft Powerpoint) (pptx)
- Developing a Quality Assurance Project Plan (webinar recording).
- Training Courses on Quality Assurance and Quality Control Activities
- Uniform Federal Policy for Quality Assurance Project Plans - Training Materials
In-person and online training on how to write a QAPP is also provided by a variety of EPA partners. Contact your EPA Tribal Coordinator or visit our Training and Technical Assistance page for training ideas.