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Supplying Data and Information to the Public

Each year Water Survey service programs respond to tens of thousands of requests for water and climate data or information. These programs include the National Atmospheric Deposition Program; the Midwestern Climate Center; Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring; State Climatologist; the Public Service Laboratory; the Institutional Water Treatment Program; and information services on ground water, surface water, and floodplains. Each program and the types of services available are described briefly below.

National Atmospheric Deposition Program

(217) 333-2213, http://nadp.isws.illinois.edu

The NADP staff.

Twenty years of cooperation among federal, state, and private organizations play a key role in the success of the nation’s unique precipitation chemistry monitoring network says National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) Coordinator Van Bowersox. Most users of NADP data and information are interested in knowing about the acidity of precipitation in their area and the amount of nutrients borne by precipitation. They are also concerned about damage from the acidity and about eutrophication or oxygen deficiency in lakes, rivers, and streams as a result of nutrients. Since it became operational at the Water Survey in March 1998, the NADP Web site has been accessed 5,377 times, including 4,125 requests for maps and 781 requests for data. The system allows users to retrieve data selectively from a database management system that houses virtually all NADP data, including quality assurance data, isopleth maps of chemical concentrations of precipitation and wet deposition throughout the United States, and site photographs and descriptions. By making this type of information available on the web, it is more easily accessible to meet the information needs of a broad range of users (scientists, public officials, students, and the media). For example, one news writer at the Chapel Hill News & Observer used NADP data in his recent article on ammonia in precipitation. Data reported for sites include concentrations of acidic ions (sulfate and free hydrogen ion), nutrients (nitrate, ammonium, and orthophosphate), base cations (calcium, magnesium, and potassium), and sodium and chloride. Daily samples of these same species are also measured by a 10-site NADP subnetwork, the Atmospheric Integrated Research Monitoring Network. Total mercury is measured at about 30 sites in the United States and Canada as part of the Mercury Deposition Network, another NADP subnetwork. Measurements of precipitation amount and type complement the chemistry measurements. Combining the precipitation and chemistry measurements facilitates calculation of the wet deposition fluxes also available on the Web. In addition to data and other information on the Web site, program staff also distribute brochures, reports, and map summaries by U.S. mail. There is no charge for NADP services.

Midwestern Climate Center

(217) 244-8226, http://mrcc.isws.illinois.edu
Climate data for a nine-state region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri) are available from the extremely popular Midwestern Climate Center (MCC) home page, which was accessed more than one million times during FY98, says MCC Director Ken Kunkel. Data and information available focus primarily on applications to agriculture, water resource management, energy usage monitoring, and scientific research. In addition to providing on-line access to the interactive, subscription-based Midwestern Climate Information System (MICIS)—which is also accessible via TelNet and by modem—the Web site provides climate statistics for the Midwest and links to climate resources around the country. Busy MCC staff gave a total of 156 media interviews; responded

to approximately 667 information requests each month, usually within 24-48 hours; and also presented numerous talks to professional groups throughout the state. Although typical questions are about weather conditions, that’s not always the case. For example, a project manager at an architecture/ wood products promotion council wanted to know useful or essential features of an observatory/ weather center for an annual student design competition. Most MCC users (primarily legal firms, insurance agencies, engineers, scientists, agricultural producers, and consultants) request daily or monthly temperature, precipitation, humidity, and wind data for specific locations; corn and soybean yield risk assessments; or regional climate summaries. Charges for services typically range from $12 to $25, and responses are delivered by phone, fax, FTP, or e-mail. Reports of numeric data are sent by mail. Among the numerous MICIS products available are maps and tables of current and historical climate data, weekly crop yield risk assessments for corn and soybeans, climate summaries for individual stations, a climate atlas of long-term averages, daily soil moisture estimates, and drought indices. Near real-time data are available for many active reporting sites. Just this past year, a historical database of pre-1948 data was incorporated into MICIS, information that will be useful for research requiring long-term stations. The MICIS data-base is updated/maintained by a computer administrator and a staff member in charge of quality control. The MCC was established in 1987 as one of six regional Centers funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is a cooperative program of the U.S. Weather Service and the Water Survey.

Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring

(217) 333-4966, http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/warm/

Meteorologist Bob Scott oversees day-to-day operations of the WARM program.

All states are interested in the variability of their water and atmospheric resources, but Illinois has a distinct advantage with data from the unique Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring (WARM) program. Created in the late 1980s, the WARM program coordinates numerous data collection efforts at the Water Survey for long-term statewide monitoring of Illinois shallow ground-water and lake levels, stream and river flows, in-stream suspended sediments, soil moisture, and numerous weather variables, including solar radiation and winds. These data serve several purposes. They provide state, business, and private users across Illinois with daily information about water and atmospheric resources. They can identify areas within Illinois that may require state assistance during extremes of water and atmospheric conditions. In addition, they contribute to the valuable long-term archive of water and atmospheric data for Illinois, information essential to adequately assess the impacts of extreme events on the socioeconomic climate of the state. Approximately 130 Illinois Climate Net-work (ICN) and soil moisture tables are distributed each month in addition to phone, e-mail, or U.S. mail responses to more than 200 data requests. When requests entail transfer of large quantities of data, there are charges for materials. Typical data requests are from researchers or individuals requesting long-term data or data for specific events. Numerous requests for wind data from the Illinois Department of Agriculture concern the effects of drift from agricultural spraying operations onto neighboring fields or property. Two monthly newsletters summarize recent WARM data: the Illinois Water and Climate Summary, which is available from the WARM program URL, and the Soil Moisture Summary. Another valuable electronic resource within the WARM program is a listing of Water Survey and other Illinois data sets collected or archived over the last century. The goal was to include all Water Survey data collection pro-grams involving more than one measurement station with at least one year of operation, and basic information and links to data sets collected and maintained by other state agencies or private businesses in Illinois. Although most data listed are in the public domain, some have proprietary restrictions on their use. A team of senior managers and scientists oversees and coordinates the WARM program. Bob Scott oversees day-to-day program operations, ICN maintenance, and the newsletters. More detailed information about monitoring of surface water and ground water appears in sections about those information services.

State Climatologist

(217) 333-0729, http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/atmos/statecli/index.htm

Amid all the El Niņo news reports, one Illinois resident—fully expecting the Baja peninsula in Mexico to be under water for her upcoming trip last January—was pleasantly surprised when State Climatologist Jim Angel assured her that, although the location receives twice as much rain during El Niņo, the normal January rainfall is only 0.5 inches. Beginning in June 1997, media coverage of El Niņo has focused primarily on known impacts for California and the Gulf Coast. However, using climate data from past El Niņos and other historical data for Illinois not available for other states, Angel was able to identify and anticipate some potential impacts on Illinois—milder winters with less snowfall—and explained this phenomenon during media interviews and six talks at Cooperative Extension workshops and for Rotary or science groups. Angel and staff also provide information about climate change, extremes (tornadoes, heat waves, droughts, floods, and winter storms), daily high and low temperatures, or amounts of precipitation and snowfall in general or for specific locations. For example, Champaign-Urbana had 8.72 inches of rain in June 1998, more than double the average (4.07 inches). The primary data source, the MCC MICIS database, allows access to daily, monthly, and annual reports for more than 400 sites across Illinois derived from daily data from the cooperative observer network operated by the National Weather Service. Because many of these sites now report in near real-time, it is possible to monitor developing climate conditions. Hourly data (wind, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.) are also available for a much smaller number of sites. Since the State Climatologist URL appeared on the Internet last winter, it has been accessed approximately 3,000 times. The site provides climate data maps and tables, short articles, and links to other sites. Most of the 650 phone requests and 200 e-mail inquiries this past year were handled by phone or fax within 1-3 business days. In addition to requests from the media (89 television, radio, and newspaper interviews during FY98), the general public, and researchers, other users include the legal, insurance, engineering, agriculture, and construction industries. Most questions concern weather conditions on a certain date, month, or hour at a particular site, but a few requests require 5 to 50 years of data for trend analysis or to relate climate to other factors such as crop yields. There is a charge to recover costs for larger data requests. In addition to providing information, Angel conducts applied research on climate-related issues, including Illinois climate trends, Great Lakes region cyclone climatology, Midwest ice storms, and an in-depth study of record-breaking 24-hour rainfall in Aurora, Illinois, on July 17-18, 1996. Research results have been published in the scientific literature or in Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports.

Public Service Laboratory

(217) 333-9234, http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/chem/psl/pslhome.html

The Public Service Laboratory (PSL) is a unique analytical service that tests water samples submitted by individuals who receive information about the quality of their water, while the State of Illinois gains valuable research data. The PSL is certified by the Illinois Environ-mental Protection Agency (IEPA) and is qualified to obtain accurate, verifiable testing results. Although there is no charge for the analyses, samples must be collected in special kits accompanied by instructions provided by the laboratory. Only samples submitted in the kits are accepted for analysis. According to chemist Brian Kaiser, most PSL clients are citizens who rely on wells for their domestic water needs, but the laboratory also receives requests from the IEPA, public health departments, other agencies, engineers and well contractors, public water supply operators, industrial water users, health professionals, veterinarians, and researchers. During FY98, the PSL analyzed approximately 610 water samples and handled about 660 phone calls regarding water quality, treatment, and services. Sometimes it is possible to address a problem or answer questions over the phone without testing the water. The PSL responds to quite a range of questions. Clients typically want to know the iron and hardness content of their water. Parents of young children are often concerned about the fluoride concentration of their water, while individuals on low-sodium diets want to know about the water’s sodium levels. Other frequent questions concern water taste, color, or odor. Well owners often ask about the "healthful-ness" of their water, but only physicians and regulatory agencies can classify water as safe or unsafe for human consumption. As part of a nonregulatory agency, the PSL can respond in regard to mineral parameters for which it tests and then inform clients of the maximum con-taminant levels for regulated parameters. Water containing excessive amounts of sulfates, nitrates, lead, and other trace metals can have a detrimental effect upon its consumers. Many questions have to do with water treatment. Is the current treatment working? Should there be additional treatment? Which treatment is appropriate? Upon completion of the PSL analyses, clients receive a written report that includes a cover letter explaining any analyses and a copy of the laboratory results. Recommendations range from using additives in the water supply, installing a water treatment system, or modifying a plumbing system, to contacting a specialist. The Water Survey’s ground-water information database is used to format and generate reports. If a database search indicates that the Water Survey has a copy of the well construction report that was filed when the well was constructed, the analysis is cataloged with the report. Program staff periodically make presentations on water quality to interested groups. More information appears on the PSL home page, which also lists common water quality concerns, treatment options, and links to other water-related Web pages.

Institutional Water Treatment Program

(217) 333-6167, http://www.sws.uiuc.edu:/

Unbiased, professional water treatment advice from the Institutional Water Treatment Program (IWTP) results in substantial annual savings in costs of chemicals, fuel, water, and maintenance of industrial and potable water systems at more than 90 state facilities through-out Illinois. The program essentially provides participants with access to qualified chemists and a laboratory to meet their water treatment and corrosion control needs. Since 1949, IWTP services have ranged from presenting on-site training and seminars to providing chemical specifications and making recommendations concerning a comprehensive water treatment program for control of corrosion, mineral scale formation, and biological growths. Clients receive detailed written recommendations or even specifications for recommended treatment equipment, chemicals, and corrosion-resistant materials for use in construction. Program staff are also actively involved in an annual workshop for Illinois Institutional Engineers cosponsored by the Department of Natural Resources, the University of Illinois, and other state agencies. The workshop, now in its 51st year, also provides information on pending regulations and water treatment developments of relevance for supervisory and administrative staff at individual institutions. During FY98, IWTP staff responded to more than 1,000 phone requests and provided more than 1,400 written copies of detailed laboratory water analyses, recommendations for action based on analysis results, and other materials. Each year program staff also make approximately 450 site visits to state facilities to evaluate the treatment program, answer questions, solve emerging problems, and analyze more than 3,000 samples in the field. According to program manager Kent Smothers, most inquiries are from state facilities about treatment of their steam, heating, cooling, and drinking water systems while public utilities or the general public usually have questions about scale or corrosion problems in wells and other potable water systems. Among the state facilities participating in the IWTP are the Department of Corrections, Human Services, Secretary of State, Central Management Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Natural Resources State Lodges, and several universities. State facilities pay a fee to recover some of the IWTP costs associated with routine visits (3-

Loretta Skowron supervises the PSL.

6 per year, depending on the size and complexity of the facility), recommendations, consultations, and sample analyses to help them comply with state and federal guidelines for water quality of drinking water and wastewater discharge. As a public service, there is no charge to public utilities or private individuals. Program staff maintain a database of all water and corrosion analyses since 1988 with paper copies of earlier analyses, letters of recommendation, reports, and other correspondence files dating back to the 1950s. Weekly reports of test results and other information submitted by participants are maintained for three years for monitoring purposes.

Ground-Water Information

(217) 333-6800, http://gwinfo/OGWI.html

Much of the ground-water information from the Water Survey spans a century and is available in electronic or paper form for the entire state. Records include data on specific cities, water use for public water supplies and large self-supplied industries, water quality, aquifer properties, water levels and hydro-graphs, well construction reports, well-sealing affidavits, and general reports and letters. Consultants, engineers, and drillers request raw data for a specific location while well owners often ask program staff for assistance with interpreting data. For example, someone constructing a new well may want information about well types for a specific location. Others want to know why a well is not working or have questions about specific locations (ground-water capacity, number of wells and respective depths, or the ground-water resources available for well development). Answers are usually provided over the phone or by U.S. mail, and a letter accompanies all photocopied raw data. According to program manager Ken Hlinka, office staff answered 2,484 requests, entered data for more than 6,000 well permits, and processed more than 6,000 well logs during FY98. More than 700 accesses of the program’s Web page generated nearly 500 additional information requests. There is a $20 query fee per database and a per-page charge for paper requests, but no fee for interpretive information for private citizens. Information is also disseminated at ground-water conferences and presentations to groups.

Surface Water and Floodplain Information

(217) 333-0447, http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/fpi/

Illinois communities receive assistance with floodplain management through the Floodplain Information Repository, which pro-vides data and other information to individuals, industry, businesses, public agencies, and government units. The Water Survey houses a complete library of current Federal Emergency Management Agency regulatory flood hazard maps, flood insurance studies, and engineering data and supportive studies related to flooding. During FY98 there were more than 560 requests for information and technical services related to surface water resources and floodplain management. Primary users include private citizens or engineers and surveyors engaged by private landowners. Technical services provided at nominal service fees facilitate compliance with the provisions of the National Flood Insurance Program and state regulatory policy. These services make it possible to determine whether a particular structure or land parcel is located within a special flood hazard area on the basis of current flood insurance rate maps using a legal description of the property. Services may entail performing engineering calculations or explaining the National Flood Insurance Program and Illinois’ floodplain management policies and appropriate applications and state regulations that may apply. Other requests call for copies of maps and engineering models or information on where to obtain data, who to contact, and methodologies to use. Moreover, the Water Survey is the only agency that collects month-end water levels for 43 reservoirs throughout Illinois year-round. Individual databases maintained for each reservoir contain historical data, and program records exceed 10 years for 19 reservoirs, with shorter records for other reservoirs. The latest data appear in the monthly Water and Climate Summary newsletter, which is accessible from the Water Survey home page. Also available electronically is a downloadable database of certified flood discharges that is searchable by county and basin. Program manager Sally McConkey serves as co-chair for the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management (IAFSM) Downstate Conference, IAFSM Board of Directors, and as an exhibitor at that organization’s Annual Conference in northeastern Illinois.

 

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