Water-related Environmental Tracking

Environmental Public Health Tracking is the collection of information on environmental hazards (for example, chemicals, microbes), exposures to those hazards (for example, through water, air), and related health effects. The goal of a tracking system is to provide information that can be used to prevent and control environmentally-related diseases. Listed below are tracking systems and databases that collect data on water quality measures and contaminants.

Environmental Data Tracking Programs or Databases

Natural Waters (lakes, rivers, ocean)
  • Watershed Assessment, Tracking & Environmental Results (WATERS)External
    WATERS improves communication and efficiency between the EPA databases listed below.
  • Water Quality Standards Database (WQSDB)External
    WQSDB contains information on the uses that have been designated for waterbodies such as for drinking water supply, recreation, and fish protection. As part of a State’s water quality standards, these designated uses provide a regulatory goal for the waterbody and define the level of protection assigned to it. WQSDB also includes scientific criteria to support each use.
  • STORET (short for STOrage and RETrieval)External
    STORET is a repository for water quality, biological, and physical data and is used by state environmental agencies, EPA and other federal agencies, universities, and private citizens. The Legacy Data Center, or LDC, contains historical water quality data dating back to the early part of the 20th century and collected up to the end of 1998.
  • Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)External
    TMDL Tracking System contains information on waters that are Not Supporting their designated uses. These waters are listed by the state as impaired under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water ActExternal The statuses of TMDLs are also tracked. TMDLs are pollution control measures that reduce the discharge of pollutants into impaired waters.
Drinking Water Systems
  • Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS)External
    SDWIS is the repository for information that EPA requires states to collect about public water systems and their violations of EPA’s drinking water regulations. These regulations, and their enabling statutes, establish maximum contaminant levels, treatment techniques, and monitoring and reporting requirements to ensure that water provided to customers is safe for human consumption.
  • National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)External
    NCEI is a national repository and dissemination facility for global oceanographic data which acquires and preserves a historical record of the Earth’s changing environment to be used for operational applications and ocean climate research.
  • National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN)External
    NASQAN provides ongoing characterization of the concentrations and flux of sediment and chemicals in the Nation’s largest rivers.
  • National Water Information SystemExternal
    The National Water Information System provides access to water-resources data collected at approximately 1.5 million sites in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Online access to these data is organized around surface water, ground water, and water quality.
  • National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA)External
    NAWQA provides long-term consistent and comparable information on streams, rivers, ground water, and aquatic systems in support of national, regional, State, and local information needs and decisions related to water-quality management and policy. USGS collects and interprets data about surface- and ground-water chemistry, hydrology, land use, stream habitat, and aquatic life in parts or all of nearly all 50 States using a nationally consistent study design and uniform methods of sampling analysis.

Publications

  • USGS. Bartholomay RC, Carter JM, Qi SL, Squillace PJ, Rowe GL. Summary of selected U.S. Geological Survey data on domestic well water quality for the Centers for Disease Control’s National Environmental Health Tracking Program.External Scientific Investigations Report. 2007;SIR2007-5213.
    USGS data were used to assess domestic well water quality using 11 contaminants (trace elements, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds) of potential human health concern. Data were analyzed for 16 States funded by CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Program. Only data from domestic-water supplies were used in this summary because samples from these wells are most relevant to human exposure for the targeted population. The concentrations of the 11 contaminants were compared to EPA human-health benchmarks. Using NAWQA and USGS state data, the geographic distribution of the contaminants were mapped for the 16 States. Radon, arsenic, manganese, nitrate, strontium, and uranium had the largest percentages of samples with concentrations greater than their human-health benchmarks. In contrast, organic compounds (pesticides and volatile organic compounds) had the lowest percentages of samples.
  • CDC. A survey of the quality of water drawn from domestic wells in nine midwest states. Cdc-pdf[PDF – 32 pages] 1998.
    Domestic wells, cisterns, or springs supply drinking water to eighteen percent of the households in the nine upper midwestern states. Many of these wells were in areas of the Missouri and Mississippi River basins that were flooded during the 1993 midwest flood. After the flood waters receded, many state and county sanitarians reported that water samples collected from domestic wells in the flooded river basins contained coliform bacteria. A survey was initiated in 1994 to assess the presence of bacteria and chemicals in water drawn from 5520 households with domestic wells in the states that were severely affected by the flood. Coliform bacteria, E. coli, nitrate, and atrazine were found in many of the water samples collected from midwestern households with a domestic well. Most of the water samples with these pollutants were drawn from dug or bored wells that were old and shallow and had a large-diameter brick or concrete casing. Wells with a pitless adapter or backflow device had a lower contamination rate. A cracked casing or opening in the well greatly increased the risk for contamination. Samples from wells within 100 feet from septic tanks or cisterns; or had pesticides, manure, or fertilizer applied within 100 feet of the well; or down gradient from a pollutant source, had a higher contamination rate.