Focus On Water Division
Surface Water Monitoring and Assessment

The Surface Water Monitoring and Assessment programs collect physical, chemical, and biological water quality samples from streams and lakes, implements surface water improvement projects, and prepare surface water quality reports. Several monitoring programs collect stream and lake samples throughout the state; however, most monitoring is focused in two or three river basins each year in conjunction with a basin rotation monitoring strategy. Below is a summary of the rotation monitoring approach and the surface water monitoring programs:

A brief description of the basin monitoring strategy, as well as surface water implementation, monitoring, and assessment programs follows. Or, for a more detailed overview of the programs, go to the
Nebraska Water Monitoring Programs Report.

Basin Rotation Monitoring – Targeting specific areas in the state each year improves NDEQ's ability to identify and remediate water quality problems and allows resources to be focused where they can produce the greatest environmental results. During a six-year cycle, all 13 river basins in the state are intensively monitored. Monitoring data are used to document existing water quality conditions, assess the support of beneficial uses (such as aquatic life, recreation, and public drinking water supply), and prioritize water quality problems.

Lake Beach Bacteria and Harmful Algae Blooms (Toxic Algae) Monitoring
E. coli bacteria and toxic blue-green algae (microcystin toxin) were monitored weekly every year from May through September. In 2010, 48 beaches on 45 different lakes were monitored, and over 1,000 samples were assessed for each parameter. Especially targeted were the major public lakes with designated swimming beaches. The microcystin toxin was added to the existing beach bacteria program in 2004 following the deaths of several dogs after they drank water from lakes with blue-green algae blooms. Microcystins are the most common toxins released by blue-green algae. The bacteria and toxic algae information is updated weekly and posted on our web site at: Harmful Algae Blooms - Toxic Blue-Green Algae and Bacteria Sampling Results

Fish Tissue Monitoring Program — Each year fish samples are collected from numerous streams and lakes across Nebraska to determine their suitability for human consumption. This is important because certain contaminants have a tendency to bio-accumulate in fish tissue and, when eaten, can cause an increased risk for human health problems. In waterbodies where contaminant levels in fish are of concern, “fish consumption advisories” are issued. These advisories do not ban the consumption of fish from a particular waterbody. Rather, advisories are designed to inform the public of how to safely prepare and eat what they catch, and provide suggested guidelines for limiting consumption. A as food source, fish are a high quality protein, low in saturated fat, and high omega-3 fatty acid food source, so anglers should not be discouraged from consuming fish in moderation.
Stream Biological Monitoring Program — This program is used to evaluate the health of aquatic life populations and involves a unique randomized sample design that allows water quality status and trend assessments to be determined with a known level of confidence. Sampling is conducted in conjunction with the basin rotation monitoring strategy.
Ambient Stream Monitoring Program — This program has a network of 97 fixed stations located on main stem and tributary streams across the state. The primary objectives are to provide information on the status and trends of water quality in streams within each of the state's 13 river basins and link assessments of status and trends with natural and human factors that affect water quality. Fifty-eight of the 97 sites are located on main stem streams. Ecoregion and land use considerations were used in selecting many of the stream locations. Samples are collected monthly and analyzed for traditional chemical and physical parameters and include some herbicides and heavy metals. During 2010, a total of 1,160 water samples were collected for this program.

Lake Monitoring Program
— Lake monitoring is currently conducted on 44 lakes across the state. Monitoring involves the collection of monthly water samples from May through September. These data are used to document existing water quality conditions, evaluate long-term trends, design watershed and lake restoration/protection projects, and evaluate project effectiveness. Monitoring focuses on nutrients, sediment, pesticides, heavy metals, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, conductivity, and water clarity.

Fish Kill and Citizen Complaint Investigations
— The surface water unit responds to reports of fish kills and other environmental concerns of citizens related to surface water. On-site investigations are conducted, as needed, to document existing water quality conditions, surface water quality standards violations, and identify pollution sources and responsible parties.

Integrated Report
— Beginning in 2004, and every two years thereafter, states are required to prepare a biennial water quality report called the Integrated Report, which is a combination of the Section 305(b) and Section 303(d) reporting requirements of the Clean Water Act. The Integrated Report provides a comprehensive summary of the status and trends of surface water quality in Nebraska and includes a list of impaired surface waters that do not support their assigned beneficial uses. Click here to view the most recent Integrated Reports.

Nebraska Water Monitoring Programs Report — A report summarizing the monitoring programs performed (or required) by NDEQ called the “Nebraska Water Monitoring Programs Report” is produced annually. This report describes the numerous monitoring programs NDEQ is involved with, its partners, and several highlights of recent monitoring efforts. Future enhancements to this report will include more in-depth examinations of what our monitoring programs are telling us, how we are using them to manage and improve water quality, and to inform the public of the trends observed. The most recent Nebraska Water Monitoring Programs Reports are available on the NDEQ's web site deq.ne.gov, by selecting Publications, then selecting Water Quality.