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Recovery Potential Screening

Recovery Potential Screening User Support

Although the entire Recovery Potential Screening (RPS) website provides user support in varying ways, this web page summarizes all RPS user support resources in one place and serves as a topically organized guide to several key documents, web areas and links. This encompasses topics such as the methodology, the RPS Tool (downloads and usage instructions), indicators and other RPS resources.


RPS User Support Documents

Documents about RPS Tool use

  • RPS Tool User Manual. The RPS Tool is an Excel file that stores watershed indicator data, uses it to auto-calculate RPS indices and presents those index results as rank-ordered tables, graphs and maps that can be user-customized. This document provides detailed treatment of all the components and functions of the Tool, including more advanced techniques for customizing the bubble plot graphics and color-coded watershed maps. Users should note that this manual focuses on the mechanics of Tool use, which should be accompanied by reading about RPS analytical approach in the step-by-step account of the RPS methodology.

Go To RPS Tool User Manual (PDF)(54 pp, 34 MB)

  • Watershed Tools for Local Scale Projects. Although the most common RPS Tools are statewide in coverage, they adapt easily to use on smaller, sub-state areas such as ecoregions, medium-sized river basins and counties. This document guides local users in the basic ways they can use the RPS Tool on their own area of interest while still benefiting from using its statewide data as a comparative context.

Go To Watershed Tools for Local Scale Projects (PDF) (4 pp, 662 K)

  • Watershed Tools for Tribes. The RPS Tool can support comparative assessment of watersheds that contain tribal lands within any given state. This document provides steps for tribes to follow when identifying and screening a subset of watersheds with tribal lands, or when screening watersheds immediately adjacent to tribal watersheds.

Go To Watershed Tools for Tribes (PDF)(2 pp, 614 K)

  • Using Rank Ordering in RPS. The four indices calculated in a screening (Ecological, Stressor, Social, Integrated or RPI score) are also each rank-ordered automatically by the RPS Tool. This document discusses some of the ways in which rank-ordered RPS results can be applied in watershed management strategies and activities.

Go To Rank Ordering in RPS (PDF)(4 pp, 741 K)

  • Using Bubble Plotting in RPS. The Ecological, Stressor and Social indices calculated in a screening are also combined in a bubble-plot graph automatically by the RPS Tool. This document discusses some of the ways in which bubble-plotted RPS results can be applied in watershed management strategies and activities.

Go To Bubble Plotting in RPS (PDF)(6 pp, 634 K)

  • Using Mapping in RPS. The RPI (Recovery Potential Integrated) index calculated in a screening is automatically mapped by the RPS Tool as part of a screening, but the Tool’s map can be customized to display any index or any single indicator. This document discusses some of the ways in which mapped RPS results can be applied in watershed management strategies and activities, as well as how Tool data tables can be exported for use in more advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Go To Mapping in RPS (PDF)(4 pp,  668 K)


Documents about RPS methods

  • RPS Steps Checklist. This one-page list of the main tasks under each step in the RPS online methodology is convenient for tracking and communicating about project development.

Go To RPS Steps Checklist (PDF)(1 pp, 101 K)

  • Recovery Potential Screening: A Step-by-Step Example. Because this document tracks an RPS project through the full sequence of steps in a screening, it is a good companion to the online step by step methodology for users who prefer to learn by applied example.

Go To Step-by-Step Example (PDF)(12 pp, 838 K)

  • Developing New RPS Indicators. Although hundreds of watershed indicators are publicly available at one watershed scale (HUC12), nearly all RPS projects find needs or opportunities to supplement these with more from their own area’s datasets. This document addresses several crucial elements for developing new RPS indicators that will be fully compatible with the RPS Tool and its existing indicator data.

Go To Developing New RPS Indicators (PDF)(2 pp, 134 K)

  • RPS Scenarios. When many different watersheds are assessed and compared, it can become an “apples and oranges” situation if they vary significantly and the purpose for comparison is too broadly defined. Developing scenarios is a method for sorting the watersheds into more similar subgroups, based on a combination of key watershed characteristics, impairment sources, risks and potential strategies for management, and then screening each scenario separately. This document reviews how defining scenarios and their member watersheds can improve the specificity of a screening and increase the usefulness of an RPS project.

Go To RPS Scenarios (PDF)(12 pp, 150 K)

  • Using Expert Elicitation in RPS. As an assessment process that attempts to estimate present conditions but also future environmental responses, RPS is difficult to validate with certainty. Expert elicitation offers a structured approach to applying expert opinion insights on watershed condition and prospects for restorability, as an input to QA/QC of RPS watershed rankings. This document was based on experiences with RPS and expert elicitation in a statewide RPS project with substantial local involvement.

Go To Using Expert Elicitation in RPS (PDF)(4 pp, 241 K)


Documents about indicators

  • Watershed Indicators Master List.  This table includes a large unabridged list of indicator names that have been identified as potentially useful but may or may not have been measured, either on a single-state or national scale. Also, this file is set up for use as an indicator selection worksheet in that users can check off indicators of interest in a project planning column while browsing the list. This file's purpose is to help generate ideas for indicators at the beginning of an RPS project.

       Go to Watershed Indicators Master List(5 pp, 108 K)

  • Watershed Index Online (WSIO) Available Indicator Data.  This web page includes downloadable data tables, indicator names, brief descriptions, and metadata of the 460+ indicators currently available on the WSIO website.  Selections from the WSIO data are used in all the RPS statewide tools. 

      Go to Watershed Index Online (WSIO) Available Indicator Data 

  • RPS Statewide Tool Embedded Indicators.  This table includes the name, brief description, and metadata for all 200+ indicators embedded in the latest release of lower 48 RPS Statewide Tools.

      Go to RPS Statewide Tool Embedded Indicators(1 pg, 26 K)

  • RPS Indicator Summaries. This downloadable document contains brief descriptions of 100+ commonly used RPS indicators, including why each is relevant to watershed condition and recovery, its data sources, and how measured. It is the same content as the indicator descriptions on the ecological, stressor and social indicator tab pages in this website, but downloadable in one document.

     Go to RPS Indicator Summaries (PDF) (49 pp, 565 K)

  • RPS Indicator Tracking Record. This spreadsheet file offers an organized format to keep track of any new indicators created during an RPS project and their essential information.

     Go to RPS Indicator Tracking Record (5 pp, 16 K)

  • RPS Indicator Reference Sheets. These reference sheet files present the most detailed level of information on 70 individual RPS indicators; many are several pages long. Each fact sheet repeats the indicator summaries information but also provides excerpts from technical literature, project reports and restoration practice that elaborate on how the indicator relates to watershed condition and may affect restorability prospects. Fact sheets are accessible by category from the following links:

Go to RPS Ecological Indicator Reference Sheets

Go to RPS Stressor Indicator Reference Sheets

Go to RPS Social Indicator Reference Sheets


Documents about RPS projects and applications

  • A Method for Comparative Analysis of Recovery Potential in Impaired Waters Restoration Planning. This paper appeared in Environmental Management journal in August 2009. It describes an indicator-based method for setting restoration priorities among large numbers of impaired waters through using recovery potential screening. The paper covers the screening methods, their programmatic purpose, and three state or multi-state scale studies. The original publication Exitavailable at www.springerlink.com Exit remains relevant as a discussion of general approach and need within watershed programs, but it precedes RPS Tool development and many more recent RPS projects.

     Go to A Method for Comparative Analysis of Recovery Potential in Impaired Waters Restoration Planning Exit

  • RPS of Kentucky Watersheds in Support of Nutrients Management. Between 2013 and 2015, EPA Office of Water assisted several states in performing statewide watershed assessments as input to nutrients management strategies and priority setting. Each RPS nutrients project was designed to help states apply recommendations from the EPA Office of Water 2011 nutrients policy memorandum. The two-stage approach in each state project compared HUC8 watersheds in a first, targeting stage and then focused on screening and comparing HUC12s in a second, implementation-oriented stage. All the RPS nutrients projects encouraged state-specific customizing of the approach in identifying stage 1 scenarios, establishing state approaches for priority watershed identification, and selection and weighting of the most nutrients-relevant indicators for use in both stages. Kentucky’s RPS tool contained 300 indicators with full statewide coverage at one or more of the HUC14, HUC12, or HUC8 scales (the majority – 281 of 300 - are at HUC12 scale). Stage 1 of this analysis examined an urban-suburban scenario for nutrients management and a rural-agricultural scenario statewide. A more detailed Stage 2 screening focused on the HUC12 subwatersheds within single HUC8s from each scenario in this report.

      Go to RPS of Kentucky Watersheds in Support of Nutrients Management. (PDF)(39 pp, 4 MB)

  • RPS of Tennessee Watersheds in Support of Nutrients Management. Between 2013 and 2015, EPA Office of Water assisted several states in performing statewide watershed assessments as input to nutrients management strategies and priority setting. Each RPS nutrients project was designed to help states apply recommendations from the EPA Office of Water 2011 nutrients policy memorandum. The two-stage approach in each state project compared HUC8 watersheds in a first, targeting stage and then focused on screening and comparing HUC12s in a second, implementation-oriented stage. All the RPS nutrients projects encouraged state-specific customizing of the approach in identifying stage 1 scenarios, establishing state approaches for priority watershed identification, and selection and weighting of the most nutrients-relevant indicators for use in both stages. Tennessee’s RPS tool contains 310 indicators with full statewide coverage at HUC12, HUC8, or both scales. Stage 1 of this analysis examined an urban-suburban scenario for nutrients management and a rural-agricultural scenario statewide. A more detailed Stage 2 screening focused on the HUC12 subwatersheds within single HUC8s from each scenario in this report.

      Go to RPS of Tennessee Watersheds in Support of Nutrients Management (PDF)(33 pp, 4 MB)

  • RPS of Louisiana Watersheds in Support of Nutrients Management. Between 2013 and 2015, EPA Office of Water assisted several states in performing statewide watershed assessments as input to nutrients management strategies and priority setting. Each RPS nutrients project was designed to help states apply recommendations from the EPA Office of Water 2011 nutrients policy memorandum. The two-stage approach in each state project compared HUC8 watersheds in a first, targeting stage and then focused on screening and comparing HUC12s in a second, implementation-oriented stage. All the RPS nutrients projects encouraged state-specific customizing of the approach in identifying stage 1 scenarios, establishing state approaches for priority watershed identification, and selection and weighting of the most nutrients-relevant indicators for use in both stages. Louisiana’s RPS Tool contained nearly 300 indicators with full statewide coverage at HUC12, HUC8, or both scales. Stage 1 of this analysis examined ecoregionally-based scenarios across the state to select ecoregions of greatest interest for nutrients management tailored to ecoregional characteristics and issues. Of the 15  ecoregions in Louisiana, LA DEQ selected the Upper Mississippi River Alluvial Plains (UMRAP), the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Plains (LMRAP), the Southern Plains Terrace and Flatwoods (SPTF) and the Gulf Coastal Prairie (GCP) ecoregions for detailed Stage 2 RPS analysis.

     Go to RPS of Louisiana Watersheds in Support of Nutrients Management. (PDF)(54 pp, 13 MB)

  •  Multi-Scale Screening Assessment of Recovery Potential in Maryland Watersheds.  This 2010 screening assessment was undertaken collaboratively by Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) and the EPA to determine which of the impaired watersheds were the strongest candidates for restoration and re-attainment of water quality standards. The purpose was to help inform strategies for targeting restoration efforts where they would be more likely to result in successful restoration progress and eventual removal of currently impaired waters from impaired waters lists.

     Go to A Multi-Scale Screening Assessment of Recovery Potential in Maryland Watersheds (PDF) (2 pp, 296 K)

  •  A Rapid Screening Assessment of Brook Trout Recovery Potential in Mining-Impacted Middle Atlantic Region Watersheds. This 2008-2009 study was a joint RPS effort of state and federal agencies with common interests in rehabilitating abandoned mine lands, restoring native fish habitats and returning impaired waters to healthy condition. Results increased the awareness of mutual restoration interests among fisheries, mining and water quality agencies and programs at state and federal level and led to new funding in some high-ranking watersheds.

     Go to A Rapid Screening Assessment of Brook Trout Recovery Potential in Mining-Impacted Middle Atlantic Region Watersheds (PDF)  (6 pp, 1.08 MB)

  •  Comparing the Restorability of Illinois Impaired Waters: A Recovery Potential Pilot Study. This 2005 demonstration, which was the first RPS state-level project, explored the feasibility of measuring over 100 indicators relevant to watershed condition and restorability. It focused on several hundred impaired waters statewide and evaluated several different types of multi-metric indices for comparing and contrasting watershed conditions with attention to management prospects.

   Go to Comparing the Restorability of Illinois Impaired Waters: A Recovery Potential Pilot Study (PDF) (9 pp, 1.37 MB)  


User Support in Other RPS Web Areas

Quick Overview Information. Four parts of the RPS website are designed to provide very brief summaries along different themes for a wide variety of website visitors:

      Learn About RPS provides a general overview of the website and why RPS was developed.

      What EPA is Doing describes why EPA has supported developing RPS and how the agency is supporting its technical users from local to national scales.

      What You Can Do  offers website visitors a choice of where to visit in the RPS website depending on their level of interest and technical background.

      Frequent Questions addresses RPS approaches, tools and uses in the form of commonly raised questions and answers.

Instructions in RPS Methodology. This section of the RPS website provides step by step guidance throughout designing, carrying out and applying a Recovery Potential Screening project. Each step is hyperlinked to many additional documents and tools throughout the RPS website, as well as to several key online data sources and other links. If you’ve not read through these steps and intend to carry out an RPS project, this is the first part of the RPS website you should read to get the big picture in moderate detail.

      Go to RPS Methodology 

RPS Indicators Reference Information. This section of the RPS website offers technical information on ecological, stressor, social and base indicators used by RPS projects to compare different watersheds for a variety of environmental management purposes. Most indicators are described in three different levels of detail – a simple list of indicator names and categories, two paragraph summaries and more detailed indicator-specific reference sheets. Although indicator data is not hosted on this site, links to downloadable watershed indicator data are provided. This RPS web area provides an opportunity to quickly review large numbers of indicator options, or take a much closer look into a few indicators of high interest. Downloadable files also provide aids to indicator selection and learning where existing indicators are housed online.

      Go to RPS Indicators 

The RPS Tool Downloads. The RPS Tool is a customized Excel spreadsheet file that is capable of housing embedded watershed data on up to thousands of watersheds, auto-calculating all RPS indices, and producing screening results as rank-ordered tables, graphs and maps, all of which can be user-customized. This web area offers downloadable statewide RPS Tools for the lower 48 states, a generic RPS Tool version that accepts user data for up to three watershed scales, and a link to the user manual.

      Go to RPS Tools 

Other RPS Resources. This web area, which contains the current web page, holds a miscellaneous collection of other support materials. Along with this user support summary page, these include a quick guide to indicator scoring techniques, a recovery literature citations database and several documents referenced throughout the website.

      Go to Other RPS Resources