Towards Sustainable Water Information

No resource is more vital to the future of the Northeast-Midwest (NEMW) region—its population, industry, food production, and quality of life–than its naturally abundant fresh water. Our capacity to monitor the state of this natural asset and changes to its quality over time should reflect its value to the NEMW region. Evaluating the extent to which there is sufficient water monitoring capacity and information is especially critical at this time as large-scale development activities such as shale gas extraction and agriculture dramatically expand freshwater use.

The Northeast-Midwest Institute is examining whether sufficient water-quality data are available to answer urgent water policy questions. The economic, human health and environmental benefits of ensuring quality fresh water are of particular importance for the Northeast-Midwest Institute and are major drivers for undertaking ongoing research. Policy makers in particular need a source of objective, scientific, and timely information on water quality as they fulfill their responsibility to ensure fresh water meets society’s needs both today and in the future.

In its efforts to support this critical need, the Northeast-Midwest Institute teamed with the U.S. Geological Survey to investigate the capacity of the NEMW region’s water monitoring programs to provide water data to support informed policy decisions. Industry, environmental, academic, and agency decision makers and experts have been active in designing and studying this topic through our Blue Ribbon Project Steering Committee and Technical Advisory Committees.

Current Activities:

The Northeast-Midwest Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey are developing a series of reports investigating water data needed to address water policy issues. Two of these reports will present case studies investigating specific water policy questions:

Preliminary case study results have been shared at a variety of conferences and meetings.

  • Monitoring design requirements and available water data in the Lake Erie basin were presented at a meeting of the Ohio Workgroup for Water Resource Monitoring, and at the Science-Policy Confluence Conference on Great Lakes Nutrient Management and Water Quality.
  • Monitoring design requirements and available data in the Susquehanna River Basin were presented at the Shale Network 2015 Workshop.
  • An overview of the project was presented at the 2014 National Monitoring Conference; the Sharing Agricultural Science, Technology and Data for Improved Great Lakes Water Quality Workshop; and for the National Water Quality Monitoring Council.

Upcoming Activities

  • The results of these case studies will inform a qualitative review of water data availability across the NEMW region in an upcoming State of the Region Report.

Accomplishments and Impacts:

Several agencies and non-profits are using our preliminary results from the Lake Erie Water Monitoring Study to identify new monitoring sites and modify sampling plans:

  • The U.S. Geological Survey is using preliminary recommendations to prioritize new monitoring sites in priority areas,
  • The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency considered the case study’s monitoring design when revising sampling plans at new monitoring sites to better measure nutrient concentrations and loads.
  • The Ohio Environmental Council used preliminary case study results to support a budget request for new monitoring in priority locations.



As part of this project, the Northeast-Midwest Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey have been developing two case studies exploring the water data needed and available to answer specific water policy questions.

The Lake Erie Water Monitoring Study is described in this two-page project description
NEMWI Susquehanna River Basin Shale Gas Development Study is described in this two-page project description


Lake Erie Water Monitoring Study (June 2015)
Susquehanna River Basin Shale Gas Development Study (February 2016)

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Project Team

Sri Vedachalam, Northeast-Midwest Institute, Safe Drinking Water Research and Policy Program Director
Ankita Mandelia, Northeast-Midwest Institute, policy analyst
Anne F. Choquette, U.S. Geological Survey, Hydrologic data analyst
John T. Wilson, U.S. Geological Survey, Hydrologic data analyst
Kenneth H. Reckhow, Professor Emeritus at Duke University, Statistical analyst
Laura Hayes, U.S. Geological Survey, GIS specialist
Erik R. Hagen, Northeast-Midwest Institute, Water policy researcher
Denise M. Argue, U.S. Geological Survey, Hydrologic data analyst

Blue Ribbon Project Steering Committee

Glenn Benoy, International Joint Commission
Paul A. Biedrzycki, City of Milwaukee Health Department
Suzanne Bricker, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Julius Ciaccia, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
Thomas Davenport, Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5
Joseph Depinto, Limnotech
Blayne Diacont, Range Resources
Timothy Eder, Great Lakes Commission
Norman Grannemann, U.S. Geological Survey
Carlton Haywood, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
Jonathan Higgins, The Nature Conservancy
Jennifer Hoffman, Chesapeake Energy
Susy King, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission
James Miller, Organic Valley
Jeffrey Myers, New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Laura Rubin, Huron River Watershed Council
Robert Tudor (retired), Delaware River Basin Commission
Mark Walbridge, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
Susan Weaver, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Nutrient Technical Advisory Committee

Rajesh Bejankiwarr, International Joint Commission
William Brown, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Anne Choquette, U.S. Geological Survey
Gabrielle Ferguson, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs
Peter Richards (retired), Heidelberg University
Dale Robertson, U.S. Geological Survey
Paul Stacey, Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, New Hampshire
Mark Tomer, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Elizabeth Toot-Levy, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Shale Gas Development Technical Advisory Committee

Kate Dunlap, Trout Unlimited
Andrew Gavin, Susquehanna River Basin Commission
Adam Goehner, Pembina Institute
Peter Murdoch, United States Geological Survey
James Saiers, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Tony Shaw (retired), Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Bert Smith, Formerly with Chesapeake Energy, now with EnviroClean Products and Services
Daniel Soeder, Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory
John Wilson, United States Geological Survey
David Yoxtheimer, Penn State University

Funders of Our Work

U.S. Geological Survey