As American society moves toward understanding environmental issues in a more holistic manner, with scientists, regulatory agencies and corporate interests attempting to gain a more comprehensive ecosystem or "big picture" view of pollution issues, the U.S. EPA's Index of Watershed Indicators can provide a wealth of invaluable data to a wide variety of audiences. The index consists of 15 individual databases combined into one metaindex that contains water quality assessments for over 2,000 watersheds in the contiguous 48 states.
The Website is logically constructed and information is easy to locate. One can quickly retrieve pertinent watershed data via a large number of entry points. One may search by using clickable state maps that lead to maps, text, and statistical data for nearly all watersheds within each state. One may search by two letter state codes, by zip codes, by stream names, county or city names, by name of Indian tribe, or by numerous other criteria. Links to and from the USGS Geographic Information System Database Query Form allow one to search by additional unique features such as elevation above sea level or by USGS 7.5 minute map name.
Individual pages returned to the user include a map of the watershed; a geography section that includes population, land characteristics such as total square miles of watershed area, and landscape indicators such as percentages of total watershed area classed by urban, forest, agricultural, and other designations; and a section called Environmental Uses and Discharges.
This last section contains a veritable treasure trove of information. First, a table lists, in millions of gallons per day, how much water is allocated to domestic, commercial, industrial, mining, livestock, irrigation, wastewater, and reservoir uses. There are links to water discharge permit information granted to individual municipal and business facilities within the watershed. One may retrieve lists of hazardous waste sites, toxic release sites, and Superfund sites within the watershed. When available, there are even lists of specific chemical pollutants permitted for discharge by these facilities, with CAS Registry Numbers included, along with links to chemical fact sheets and material safety data sheets for each chemical.
There are links to pages providing historical and recent data on wetlands losses, to environmental Websites, to state and regional environmental organizations, to relevant state and Federal agencies, and to the full text of government and private sector technical reports. The EPA Index of Watershed Indicators is highly recommended to a wide range of students and faculty, including those in the sciences, in geography and land use planning, in environmental policy, and in education.
Electronic Resources Librarian and Assistant Head of Reference
Central Washington University