On October 18, 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new tool in the form of an app and website to “help people find information on the condition of thousands of lakes, rivers and streams across the United States from their smart phone, tablet or desktop computer”. The app is called How’s My Waterway and comes on the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, enacted on October 18, 1972.
The app and website can either use GPS technology or user inputs to provide information on bodies of water in the area.
“America’s lakes, streams and rivers are national treasures. Communities and neighborhoods across the U.S. want to know that their local lakes, rivers and streams are healthy and safe to enjoy with their families,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “This new app provides easy, user-friendly access to the health of a waterway, whether it is safe for swimming and fishing, and what is being done about any reported problems. People can get this information whether researching at a desktop or standing streamside looking at a smart phone.”
The data reported in the app is collected from States on a two-year cycle. Through the Clean Water Act, all states are required to monitor water pollution and report the results to EPA every two years. If the body of water is too polluted to meet water quality standards, the waters are classified as impaired and placed on a list for future action. The app will include information on whether a body of water has ever been placed on this list and what actions have been taken to improve the conditions.
The EPA places each polluted waterway in one of thirty four major categories based on the States assessment. The How’s My Waterway app provides “simple descriptions of each major category, where the pollution comes from, its effect on the environment and on beneficial waterway uses, what citizens can do to help, and where to find more information”.
A test of the website showed results on the Delaware River, one of the closest waterways to my location when trying out the app. It showed that the river was last assessed in 2010 and listed as polluted. It was placed in three of the major categories including mercury, PCBs, and pesticides. The app provided the technical reports that were used to place the river in each of these categories. It also listed any previous and planned clean up actions and a map of the Delaware River and other waterways near to my location.
Finally, the app provides external links to information on a number of issues associated with clean water. These include fish advisories, beach closings, drinking water, and polluted runoff control projects among many others.
This tool is useful for providing information to the general public in easy to understand terms and in a user-friendly format. The website can be accessed here.