Watershed groups seek to share information

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19 March 2009 –

Morgantown, W.Va.—Water data everywhere and not a byte to share was the lament of organizers of the West Virginia Watershed Network who met on March 17 at West Virginia University National Research Center for Coal and Energy to do something about sharing access to data.

“It takes time and money to gather water quality samples and save that information in databases” said Rick Buckley, branch chief, field support, U.S. Office of Surface Mining. “The Watershed Network thought a forum like this to share data could help avoid duplication of effort and expenses,” he said. The West Virginia Watershed Network is an informal group of state and federal agencies, non-profit groups such as local watershed organizations, and research organizations such as the West Virginia Water Research Institute of the WVU NRCCE, who hosted the one-day conference. The watershed organization works collaboratively to support and empower local residents in their efforts toward sustainable management of local water resources.

“WVWRI is happy to host this event because it’s in our interest as a research organization to promote sharing of data. Those of us in research feed on data to gain new insights into water quality issues. Plus we all save money and time by sharing,” said Brady Gutta, WVWRI research associate.

Friends of the Cheat watershed group reviewed their data management and assessment of water quality in the Cheat River watershed. FOC uses GIS in spatially relating the data. “This information helps us to prioritize our restoration efforts to address acid mine drainage,” explained Keith Pitzer of Friends of the Cheat.

“Restoration efforts upstream of Cheat Lake offer benefits for all those who enjoy use of the lake. Fishing, for example, was once impossible because of the acid mine drainage in the watershed,” he said. Fishing tournaments now are held routinely in the lake.

Other presentations were made by the U.S. Geological Survey on its water flow gauges and associated database and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its Water Quality Exchange database. The WV Department of Agriculture talked about its robust monitoring program that has collected nearly 26,000 samples in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle over the last ten years.

WV Department of Environmental Protection experts spoke about water monitoring data with regard to TMDLs which set the amount of pollutants discharged into a stream, the Marcellus Shale where gas production may affect water quality, and selenium which is known to cause problems in aquatic life.

The WV DEP also presented information about ongoing watershed assessments, the Abandoned Mine Lands program, the special reclamation bond forfeiture program, the DEP’s geographic information system, and information regarding NPDES program requirements for coal mining permits and other industry operations. The WV Division of Natural Resources presented information about fisheries and wetlands and the statewide fish and habitat classification project that will assist with making decisions about West Virginia’s aquatic resources.

The WV Department of Health and Human Services discussed drinking water contaminant data availability under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Access to the data will be available soon on the Drinking Water Watch website. Information about drinking water violations is currently available on the US EPA website: http://www3.epa.gov/enviro/facts/sdwis/search.html.

Organizers said that about 80 people attended the event. Presentations will be available online at: http://www.wvca.us/wvwn/

Posted March 19, 2009