Water Monitoring Program
Arkansas Water Quality Monitoring Program (ArMAP) is designed to meet the goals of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and state water quality management and monitoring goals, including establishing and revising water quality standards, determine attainment of the standards, and the identification impaired waters, among others. It also is designed to help the maintain programs to monitor and protect all waters of the state, ascertain standards attainment using defensible data, and refine assessment tools.
The program includes a variety of routine and non-routine monitoring activities for both surface and ground waters. Routine, systematically collected data provides long-term water quality trend information. Intensive and special studies are designed with specific objectives such as assessing the chemical, physical and biological conditions of specific water bodies are regions of the state.
All monitoring and assessment activities are implemented under quality assurance protocols to ensure that all environmental data generated and processed are scientifically valid; of known precision and accuracy; of acceptable completeness, representativeness and comparability; and legally defensible.
Surface Water Monitoring
DEQ monitors Arkansas’s surface water in streams and lakes by collecting samples, which DEQ’s Office of Water Quality Laboratory analyzes. Chemical data derived from these samples are used for water quality assessments, designated use support decisions, criteria development, and special projects such as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) development and watershed characterization.
Ecologists, geologists, and biologists from the Water Quality Planning Branch and inspectors from the Water Compliance Branch use collection procedures that adhere to Arkansas’s Water Quality and Compliance Monitoring Quality Assurance Project Plan and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Water quality data for all DEQ sampling sites can be downloaded using the Lab’s searchable database.
A stream monitoring program (the Roving Water Quality Monitoring Network) was initiated in 1994 and included 100 stations. Quarterly sampling began at these sites in May of 1994 and continued through October 1996. In October 1998, these stations were increased to 200 stations and divided into four groups; each group was sampled for two years on a bimonthly basis. This sampling scheme ended in 2013. Starting in 2014, the state began to focus on intensive surveys in each ecoregion. These studies include monthly sampling for one or two years at sites selected across an anthropogenic disturbance gradient.
Biological monitoring is an important component of assessing Arkansas’s waters. Often, water quality monitoring alone is not sufficient to determine whether aquatic life is being impacted. Conducting biological surveys is an effective way to determine how pollution from point and nonpoint sources, and habitat alteration affects ecosystems.
Fishes represent the top of the aquatic food chain and are important indicators of ecosystem health. Extensive knowledge of the habitat, life history, longevity, and mobility of native species provide insight into the condition of fish communities in Arkansas’s streams.
Extensive research has been compiled on the life history, tolerance, and habitat requirements of aquatic macroinvertebrates, making them exceptional indicators of ecosystem health. With limited mobility and relatively short lifespans, these organisms provide insight into localized and current water quality conditions. Aquatic macroinvertebrate data are available on DEQ’s website.
- Periphyton and Clorophyll a
Periphyton (a complex matrix of algae and heteroptrophic microbes) represents the bottom of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems. While algal communities are important food sources for macroinvertebrates and some fishes, excessive algal growth can not only be an aesthetic nuisance but can also deplete oxygen available to aquatic organisms. Ecologists collect periphyton or clorophyll a samples to better understand the relationships between chlorophyll a and periphyton biomass to aquatic life communities and aquatic biology.
Bacteria (Escherichia coli) are collected from selected sites to determine if criteria are being attained during the primary contact recreation season (May 1 to September 30) and during the secondary contact recreation season (year-round). While multiple agencies sample bacteria, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) maintains a list of swim beaches that are closed due to bacteria.
A routine lake monitoring program was initiated in 1989 sampling 80 significantly publicly owned lakes once every five years. The current lake monitoring program, began in 2019, encompasses routine lakes sampling for 78 significant public lakes, which are sampled on a 3-year rotation. Every three years, priority lakes are re-evaluated and a new set of lakes are selected to be sampled. Ultimately, all of the publicly owned lakes should have three years' worth of data every 9-12 years. Prior to this, DEQ had been sampling only the 16 United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) lakes (included in the 78 significant public lakes) starting in 2011. Water quality data are available online.
- Bois D'Arc Lake
- Brewer Lake
- Cox Creek Lake
- Driver Creek Lake
- Harris Brake Lake
- Horsehead Lake
- Horseshoe Lake
- Jack Nolen Lake
- Lake Austell
- Lake Beaverfork
- Lake Bennett
- Lake Charles
- Lake Chicot
- Lake Conway
- Lake Erling
- Lake Fayetteville
- Lake Frierson
- Lake Greenlee
- Lake Overcup
- Lake Pickthorne
- Lake Sequoyah
- Lake Wilson
- Lee Creek Reservoir
Information on the health risk associated with mercury in fish tissue is on the Arkansas Department of Health website.
DEQ partners with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) to assess mercury levels in fish within waters of the state. AGFC collects fish samples, which are then processed and analyzed in DEQ’s laboratory. ADH receives the data, discusses with the partners, and determines when a fish consumption advisory should be issued on a particular waterbody.
APC&EC’s Rule 2 (water quality standards) dictates when a waterbody gets put on the 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies for mercury in fish.