WV Water Research Institute Receives Funding to Expand the QUEST Water Quality Monitoring Program

by Duane Nichols on June 29, 2012

The QUEST Water Quality Monitoring Program

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A $700,000 grant to West Virginia University’s Water Research Institute from the Colcom Foundation will allow for the continuation and expansion of the award-winning water quality monitoring and reporting program known as QUEST – Quality Useful Environmental Study Teams. Originally focused on the Monongahela River Basin, the new Colcom-funded 3 Rivers QUEST project will also include the Allegheny and upper Ohio River Basins.

The West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) began the strategic QUEST program in July 2009 after concerns arose over high concentrations of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in the Monongahela River that exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency’s secondary drinking water standard. Since then, WVWRI staff has conducted sampling and monitoring at 16 locations throughout the Monongahela River Basin every two weeks.

In addition, watershed organizations are also collecting water quality data to contribute to the program. These volunteer-based watershed organizations have been monitoring at additional locations, many within the River’s headwater regions. Data collected by both WVWRI and the volunteer organizations are disseminated to the public via the project’s web site.

The program received national recognition when it was was awarded a Regional IMPACT Award by the National Institutes for Water Resources. The QUEST program is successful because it provides the public, industry, agencies, and organizations with an easy to understand visualization of the health of the watershed systems over a period of time.

“The new funding will allow the existing QUEST program to continue monitoring in the Monongahela River Region and also to expand the project’s geographical scope to include the Allegheny and the Upper Ohio Rivers,” said QUEST Coordinator Glenn Waldron. “This new funding from the Colcom Foundation will also be used to further develop and expand the data reporting capabilities on the QUEST web site.”

“Local watershed groups are timely and efficiently collecting valuable water data” said Colcom program director Carol Zagrocki. “Combining that data with detailed water chemistry analysis and publicly displaying the information will help protect our water resources. WVWRI had already developed a user-friendly website and was successfully incorporating volunteer data.”

The new project, titled 3 Rivers QUEST, or 3RQ, is indicative of the three river sub-regions being monitored: Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio. The WVWRI will be selecting QUEST research partners through a competitive grant process.

“Selected partners will be tasked with replicating the QUEST Model in these additional River Basins,” said Melissa O’Neal, Project Manager. “They will implement both a regimented bi-weekly sampling program, complete with full laboratory chemistry analysis, and work to develop a coordinated network of watershed associations and individuals to monitor, at a minimum, conductivity, pH, and water temperature.”

The expanded QUEST program will also include funding opportunities for watershed organizations to participate in the QUEST program. These funds will be disbursed through a competitive grant process and will provide grassroots organizations the opportunity to obtain necessary funding to help implement new monitoring programs or to support existing programs.

“The Mon River QUEST program has already yielded an unprecedented amount of water quality information for a large river system such as the Monongahela River Basin,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, WVWRI Director. “I’m not aware of any other large river system in the country that has this level of detailed, publicly accessible monitoring information. Expanding the program to include the Allegheny and upper Ohio Rivers will build on a successful model and make this a truly regional tool for managing water quality.”

For more information about the QUEST program, including information about the soon to be released RFP, visit: www.3riverquest.org

NOTE: The above press release is from Dave Saville, WV Water Research Institute at WVU. Telephone 304-293-7066, dave.saville@mail.wvu.edu

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