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Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan


Beneficial Use Monitoring Program
2001 Draft Final Report

April 2002

Prepared by
Water Quality Division
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

BUMP cover


Protecting our state's valuable water resources is essential to preserving those resources and is essential if we want to maintain and promote the quality of life for all Oklahomans. Our abundant water resources are used for a myriad of activities such as fishing, irrigation, hydropower, boating, swimming, and as public/private water supplies to name a few. Water is vital for the continued advancement of this state, both economical and from a quality of life standpoint.

The National Recreation Lakes Study Commission has estimated that 32,100 people in Oklahoma are employed in support of activities connected to the presence of man-made lakes, greater than 1,000 surface acres. They also estimate that 18,718,000 visitor days are spent on Oklahoma lakes each year and approximately $2.2 billion dollars are contributed annually to Oklahoma's economy in connection with recreation in and around our large reservoirs. This dollar figure does not include recreation associated with our numerous smaller lakes, nor does it include recreational activities occurring on our thousands of rivers and streams. In addition, the Kerr-McClellan Navigation system brings substantial dollars into the state economy and supports numerous thriving businesses up and down the navigation channel. Rivers and streams serve as critical sources for water supply and irrigation water, as well as offering a myriad of recreational activities. Directly or indirectly, Oklahoma's rivers and streams contribute approximately $10.7 million dollars annually through such activities as camping and hiking. An additional $15.2 million dollars are generated by hunting and fishing activities (Data from the "Oklahoma Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), 1987"). This dollar figure has undoubtedly increased in the 12 years since the SCORP study was completed. Our water resources have a large economic impact to our state and are vital to the continued quality of life that Oklahomans enjoy. If our quality of life is going to continue to improve, then water will be a major contributor to achieving that goal.

Surface waters are not the only waters of the state that are critical to our economy and quality of life. Oklahoma's numerous groundwater aquifers serve as municipal water supplies and are a key ingredient to our agricultural economy. Without plentiful and high quality groundwater to meet our irrigation and municipal water supply demands, Oklahoma would not be the state it is today. Groundwater serves as the primary water supply for approximately 300 Oklahoma cities and towns and comprises 60% of the total water used (Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, 1997). Groundwater resources also meet approximately 90% of the state's irrigation needs and are vital to supporting the state's $6.1 billion dollar agricultural industry. It should be readily apparent to all of us that our water resources, be they lakes, streams, groundwater or wetlands, are vital to our economy and the continued well being of our people.

Oklahoma works to protect and manage its water resources through a number of initiatives, with the Oklahoma Water Quality Standards (OWQS) serving as the cornerstone of the state's water quality management programs. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) is designated by state statute as the agency responsible for promulgating water quality standards and developing or assisting the other environmental agencies with implementation framework. State agencies are responsible for implementing the OWQS as outlined by the OWRB through development of implementation plans. Protecting our waters is a cooperative effort between many state agencies and, because the OWQS are utilized by all agencies and represent a melding of both science and policy, they are an ideal mechanism to assess the effectiveness of our diverse water quality management activities.

The OWQS are housed in OAC 785:45 and consist of three main components:

  1.      beneficial uses,
  2.      criteria to protect beneficial uses
  3.      antidegradation policy.

A critical fourth component which is not directly part of the OWQS, but which is necessary if they are to protect our water resources, is a monitoring program. A monitoring program is required in order to ensure that beneficial uses are maintained and protected. If uses are not being maintained, the cause of that impairment must be identified and restoration activities should be implemented to improve water quality such that the waterbody can meet its assigned beneficial uses.

All state agencies are currently required to implement Oklahoma's Water Quality Standards within the scope of their jurisdiction through the development of an implementation plan specific for their agency. This process, called OWQS Implementation, allows the OWQS to be utilized by other state agencies in the performance of their regulatory (statutory) responsibilities to manage water quality or to facilitate best management practice initiatives.

Recently, the need for a protocol to determine beneficial use impairment was identified, which would facilitate state agencies in directing their time and money to the areas in most need of protection or remediation. The OWRB, working in close concert with other state environmental agencies and other concerned parties, developed Use Support Assessment Protocols (USAP) to be used by all parties for assessing if a water was meeting its assigned beneficial uses. In addition, protocols were developed which could be coupled with a trend monitoring system to detect threatened waters before they become seriously impaired. Data collection efforts connected with protocol development and/or implementation also serve a vital purpose in refining numerical criteria currently included in the OWQS and in developing appropriate numerical and narrative criteria for future OWQS documents. It is essential that our waters meet their assigned uses and that OWQS implementation protocols are appropriate. The OWRB has developed the beneficial use impairment protocols mentioned above and we are moving forward with including them in OAC 785:46. Final approval of the Use Support Assessment Protocols (USAP) occurred in 2000 and the OWRB is currently refining existing protocols and pursuing the addition of protocols to the USAP to further enhance its utility and effectiveness.

Work performed towards development and implementation of the critical fourth component of the OWQS program, monitoring, is the subject of this report. All sampling activities described and conducted as part of this program were consistent with the OWRB Beneficial Use Support Protocols. It is also important to note that they are consistent with reporting requirements for the 305(b) Report, 303(d) list, 319 Nonpoint Source (NPS) Assessment, and the 314 Lake Water Quality Assessment (LWQA).

Background & Problem Definition

The State of Oklahoma has historically had numerous monitoring programs conducted by several state and federal agencies. In general, each environmental agency conducts their monitoring programs with some degree of integration and coordination with other state, municipal, or federal programs. Most water quality monitoring programs in Oklahoma are designed and implemented by each agency to collect information for one specific purpose or project (i.e. development of Total Maximum Daily Loads, OWQS process, lake trophic status determination, water quality impacts from point source dischargers, stream flow measurements, document success of best management practices, etc.). Information of this type is very specific to each individual project's data quality objectives (DQOs) and is often limited to a very small geographic area. This document describes sampling activities the OWRB has historically conducted on lakes and efforts which are currently on-going on lakes and streams across Oklahoma as part of a comprehensive, long-term, state-wide beneficial use monitoring program (BUMP). The goal of the BUMP is to detect and quantify water quality trends, document and quantify impairments of assigned beneficial uses, and identify pollution problems before they become a pollution crisis.

The state is taking a major step towards coordinating sampling activities with the creation of a "Water Quality Monitoring Council" comprised of representatives from state, local, and federal agencies as well as universities, industries, volunteer groups, Indian tribes, and environmental organizations. This Council, as envisioned, will serve a useful purpose in providing an avenue for communication between the various groups and will allow the state to coordinate water quality monitoring in a more effective manner. The Council will focus on coordinating agency activities and help the state avoid duplication of effort. Coordination between all concerned parties is obviously essential, but a comprehensive basic monitoring initiative to support the OWQS implementation process must be pursued to identify waters which are not meeting their assigned beneficial uses and thus ensure that Oklahoma's water resources are protected from water quality degradation. The Council will also be pivotal in ensuring consistency between data collection efforts. The Monitoring Council will function in a coordinating capacity, which will maximize monitoring efforts.


The goal of the monitoring program is to document beneficial use impairments, identify impairment sources (if possible), detect water quality trends, provide needed information for the OWQS, and facilitate the prioritization of pollution control activities.


Monitoring Rivers & Streams - The OWRB is currently monitoring more than 150 stream stations on a monthly basis. These sites are segregated into two discrete types of monitoring activities. The first monitoring activity is focusing on fixed station monitoring on rivers and streams and the second monitoring activity focuses on a number of sample stations whose location rotate on an annual basis. The two specific monitoring components are:

  • Fixed Station Monitoring on Rivers & Streams - Fixed station monitoring is based largely upon the sixty-seven (67) United States Geological Survey 8-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC) basins present in Oklahoma. In general, at least one (1) sample station is located in 63 HUC watersheds. After consultation with the other state environmental agencies, the OWRB has identified one hundred thirteen (113) fixed stations of which ninety-nine (99) are currently being monitored on a permanent basis. Each of these sites is used to identify beneficial use impairments, beneficial use threats, and water quality trends. A small number of the 8-digit HUC watersheds do not have a sample site due to the lack of a watercourse that flows continuously throughout the year or because they are adjacent to the state line and the watercourse immediately flows into another state.
  • Rotating Station Monitoring on Rivers & Streams - Sampling is occurring at fifty-five (55) stations for numerous water quality variables. Over the life of the BUMP, sampling has occurred on one hundred twenty-seven (127) stream segments. Sample stations and variables monitored were based upon Oklahoma's 303(d) list and input from other state environmental agencies on their monitoring needs. Variables monitored as part of this program component are specific for each stream segment monitored.

Fixed Station Load Monitoring - Efforts in connection with this task have not been extensive this fiscal year due to monetary constraints. The OWRB will cooperate with the USGS, or other agencies involved in collecting flow data, to establish monitoring stations. This effort will focus on collecting both water quality and quantity information in order to calculate pollutant loads. This initiative will be facilitated through the OWRB's Cooperative Agreement with USGS and various Compact Commission activities. In the future, parametric coverage will track with Fixed Station Concentration Monitoring. The USGS cost share program, Oklahoma's 319 program, Oklahoma's 314 program and the 303(d)-process will drive sample site locations associated with this task.

Fixed Station Lakes Monitoring - Fixed station lakes monitoring goal is designed to facilitate sampling on the 130 largest lakes in Oklahoma every other year. To accomplish this task, the OWRB is sampling approximately 35 to 40 lakes currently, on a quarterly basis. With continued stable funding, the program is moving forward such that quarterly sampling (approximately once every 90 days) of 50-60 lakes will occur in 2001/2002. Under this scenario repeat sampling on a lake will occur approximately every other year, with the inclusion of lakes data collected by other sources, like the Corps of Engineers, to meet the goal of 130 lakes every two years. Data collected consists primarily of water chemistry, nutrients, and chlorophyll information. In general, sampling of three stations per reservoir, representing the lacustrine zone, transitional zone, and riverine zone will occur and continue as funding allows. On larger reservoirs, additional sites are monitored, including major arms of the reservoir as appropriate.

Fixed Station Groundwater Monitoring - Limited monitoring as part of this task has occurred in the program. Results of monitoring are presented in this report. OWRB staff has made recommendations in this report related to the scope and magnitude of groundwater monitoring activities that the state should pursue in the future. Any proposed groundwater monitoring efforts will be coordinated with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) program.

Intensive Investigations - If a beneficial use impairment is identified or suspected, then all appropriate state agencies will be alerted and an investigation will be initiated to confirm if a beneficial use impairment is occurring. If routine monitoring cannot definitively identify impairments, then an intensive study will be undertaken and, if an impairment is present, the source of the impairment will be identified if possible. One potential use for the intensive studies envisioned was identified during the data analysis phase of this reporting process. For example, resources could be used to identify if high turbidity readings in rivers and streams are due to natural processes or due to human activities in the watershed of concern. Some potential causes of beneficial use impairment are; improper beneficial use or criteria (Oklahoma Water Resources Board jurisdiction), point source problems (Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality or Oklahoma Department of Agriculture), non-point source problems (Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, or Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality), oil and gas contamination (Oklahoma Corporation Commission), agricultural activities (Oklahoma Department of Agriculture), or mining activities (Oklahoma Department of Mines). All monitoring activities will be cooperative in nature with the agency with statutory authority assuming the lead role for intensive monitoring. If water bodies are not identified for intensive study as part of this task, then resources will be reallocated for routine monitoring of beneficial use attainment. Other entities (i.e. tribal or governmental units outside of Oklahoma) will be involved as appropriate. All intensive-monitoring activities will be consistent with the OWQS and the USAP. If no protocols exist, then best professional judgement or State/Environmental Protection Agency guidance will be used as appropriate.

For an in-depth discussion of results of river and stream sampling, please refer to the Draft Final Report.

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