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Water Quality Information

Running waterbody passes under bridge

NYSDEC conducts various programs aimed at measuring and reporting on the quality of waters in New York State. These programs involve collecting monitoring data on rivers, streams, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters, evaluating these results, and reporting the water quality information to the public. In addition to the routine monitoring and assessment of New York's waters, NYSDEC also conducts targeted research projects focusing on specific waterbodies, contaminants, pollution sources or water quality trends. More discussion of the NYSDEC Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment effort can be found at the bottom of this page, below the Quick Links below.

Water Quality Assessment Reports

Statewide Monitoring Programs

a common aquatic macroinvertebrate

Water Quality Research and Special Projects

  • Sediment Sampling in New York HarborThe Adirondack Effects Assessment Program (AEAP) is a joint project with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that monitors the long-term effects of acid rain on the waters of the Adirondack Region of the state.
  • The Finger Lakes Water Quality Study summarizes findings from a significant monitoring effort on these important upstate lakes.
  • The Hudson River Pathogens Project focused on bacteriological sampling in the "Albany Pool" reach of the Hudson.
  • The New York Harbor/Contaminated Assessment and Reduction Program (CARP) focuses on the trackdown of contaminants in New York Harbor and the identification of their sources.
  • The Sediment Assessment and Management Program
    monitors contaminants in lake and river sediments, related environmental impacts, and implications for dredging in these waters.

Analytical Services and Quality Assurance

Overview of Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Programs

Water sample being collected

Department programs to measure and report on the quality of waters in New York State involve conducting statewide monitoring, preparing water quality assessment reports based on that monitoring and other available information, and conducting environmental research on specific waters, pollutants or sources. NYSDEC monitoring and assessment efforts benefits from partnerships with local agencies, academic institutions and environmental organizations that contribute data and information for the department's consideration.

Water Quality Sampling

The NYSDEC's statewide monitoring effort conducts regular scheduled sampling of lakes, rivers and streams to identify water quality problems and issues. This monitoring effort is coordinated through the Rotating Integrated Basin Studies (RIBS) Program. Specific components of the RIBS program include stream biomonitoring of rivers and streams, stream chemistry sampling, lake monitoring conducted through the Lake Classification and Inventory (LCI) program and the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP). A groundwater monitoring effort is conducted through a partnership with the US Geological Survey. Sediment monitoring and ambient toxicity testing are also incorporated into the statewide monitoring effort.

Water Quality Assessments and Reporting

The NYSDEC evaluates monitoring results and issues water quality assessment of the state's waters. In addition to Department water quality monitoring activities and NYSDEC Regional Staff understanding of these waters, these assessments also rely on available sources of information outside the Department. Such sources include: monitoring data from other local/state/federal agencies, and input from environmental organizations, watershed groups, and other stakeholders. The cornerstone of this assessment and reporting effort is the Waterbody Inventory and Priority Waterbodies List (WI/PWL). The WI/PWL provides the most current water quality assessment for individual waterbodies of the state. This assessment information is compiled to produce periodic statewide reports, most notably the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 305(b) State Water Quality Report and the CWA Section 303(d) List of Impaired/TMDL* Waters. Other reports focusing on the status and trends in water quality are also available.

* Total Maximum Daily Loads

Water Quality Standards and Analytical Support

Other NYSDEC programs are integral to the water quality monitoring and assessment effort. The Water Quality Standards Program establishes criteria for specific substances that are protective of water uses (such as public bathing, recreation, support of aquatic life). The Water Classifications Program determines the appropriate uses that are to be supported in each of the waterbodies in the state. These programs define the specific water quality goals for these waters that are to be attained.

The Department's analytical services and quality assurance programs oversee quality assurance/quality control of sample collection, handling and analysis. This oversight insures assessments and subsequent water quality restoration and protection strategies are based on accurate information.

Water Quality Management

Once water quality assessments have been completed the Department identifies an appropriate strategies for the restoration and/or protection of waters. These strategies might incorporate regulatory permitting to reduce contaminants, best-management practices to limit the impact of nonpoint sources, compliance and enforcement strategies to insure regulatory requirements are being met, identification of funding to support environmental protection projects, and educational activities to promote stewardship of the state's waters. All of these activities are more effective when implemented in partnership with local stakeholders and the public.