National Highway Runoff Water-Quality Data and Methodology Synthesis (NDAMS)

Science Center Objects

Knowledge of the characteristics of highway runoff (concentrations and loads of constituents and the physical and chemical processes that produce this runoff) is important for decisionmakers, planners, and highway engineers to assess and mitigate possible adverse impacts of highway runoff on the Nation's receiving waters. This project was done by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to to provide a catalog of the pertinent information available; to define the necessary documentation to determine if data are valid (useful for intended purposes), current, and technically supportable; and to evaluate available sources in terms of current and foreseeable information needs.

The project was started in 1998 and the final report was published in 2003. The FHWA wanted to determine if guidelines for highway runoff quality are up-to-date and technically supportable, or if additional information was needed to update the guidelines. The FHWA wanted a catalog of existing studies and available data. Information collected was be used to determine if available data were sufficient to characterize pollutant loadings and impacts attributable to highway stormwater runoff around the country.

One of the primary products of this study was the Report FHWA-EP-03-054 "Technical Issues for Monitoring Highway Runoff and Urban Stormwater." This report is a compilation of "expert chapters" designed to address different technical issues for monitoring highway runoff and urban stormwater. These chapters include information about basic information and data quality; quality assurance and quality control practices; measurement of precipitation and runoff low; the geochemistry of runoff; measurement of sediments, trace elements, and organic chemicals in runoff; assessment of the potential ecological effects of runoff; monitoring atmospheric deposition; and interpreting runoff data using appropriate statistical techniques.

Review and analysis of the metadata collected for the National Highway Runoff Data and Methodology Synthesis indicates that much of the available data is not suf?ciently documented for inclusion in a technically defensible regional or national data set. Results of the metadata-review process indicate that few reports document enough of the information and data necessary to establish the quality or representativeness of research results. Also, the number of reports that meet criteria for documentation of project data are substantially diminished when multiple criteria are applied. For example, about 81, 40, and 19 percent of the 252 reports reviewed document efforts to sample water, sediment, or biota, respectively, but only about 8 percent of reports document efforts to evaluate all three sampling matrixes. Furthermore, several technical issues raise doubts about the veracity of existing suspended-sediment, trace-element, and organic-compound data. The fact that a program's data may not meet criteria for regional or national synthesis, however, does not mean that the data are not useful for meeting that program's objectives or that they could not be used for water-quality studies with objectives different from those required for a national synthesis.

National transportation-research organizations need to develop the infrastructure necessary to ensure that environmental research efforts address local information needs and also are useful for regional or national synthesis, especially when Federal funds are applied toward local research needs. It is necessary to establish systematic data-quality objectives, an integrated quality system, and standard protocols for sample collection, processing, analysis, documentation, and publication to ensure that resources expended to meet environmental research needs are used ef?ciently and effectively. To this end, the transportation community can adopt, adapt, and participate in the development and application of standard methods for data-collection, -processing, and -distribution. Integration of Federal, State, and local regulatory, data-collection, and research programs within a system to facilitate information transfer will provide an economy of scale by making research results available to the entire research community. National standards and a technical audit process are necessary, however, to ensure that data in this system meet documentation and data-quality requirements.

This project resulted in the publication of a bibliographic database containing information about 2,600 reports pertinent to highway and urban runoff quality, stormwater mitigation measures (known as structural best management practices (BMPs), and monitoring methods. The project also produced 3 FHWA reports, 15 USGS reports, several pieces of software, and scanned copies of several FHWA water-quality reports that were no longer available to the public at that time.

FHWA Reports

Granato, G.E., Zenone, C., and Cazenas, P.A. (eds.), 2003, National Highway Runoff Water-Quality Data and Methodology Synthesis, Volume I --Technical issues for monitoring highway runoff and urban stormwater: Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-EP-03-054, 479 p. Report On-Line

Granato, G.E., Dionne, S.G., Tana, C.T., and King, T.L., 2003, National Highway Runoff Water-Quality Data and Methodology Synthesis, Volume II -- Project documentation: Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-EP-03-055, 22 p. with CD-ROM Report On-Line

Granato, G.E., 2003, National Highway Runoff Water-Quality Data and Methodology Synthesis, Volume III -- Availability and documentation of published information for use in regional or national highway-runoff quality data synthesis: Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-EP-03-056, 71 p. Report On-Line


USGS Reports are listed under "Publications" tab