United States
                      Environmental Protection
                                   Off ice of Water
                                   Office of Wetlands,
                                   Oceans and Watersheds (4502T)
                             September 2001
'Water has
 a voice. It
 carries a
 message that
 tells those
 who you are
 and how you
 care for
 —Bernie McGurl,
 Lackawanna River
Wetlands Provide  Beneficial Services

      Wetlands are the vital link between water
      and land. They are among the most
biologically productive ecosystems in the world.
Because of their strategic position within the
landscape, wetlands can provide a wide variety
of ecosystem services such as:

  •  Improving water quality by filtering
    sediment, nutrients, and pollutants.
  •  Reducing flood damage.
  •  Preventing bank and shoreline erosion.
  •  Recharging ground and surface water
  •  Providing vital fish and wildlife habitat.
  •  Offering opportunities for recreation,
    education, and research.
  •  Producing food, forest, and fuel products.
 Wetlands are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.
Why Should We Monitor Wetlands?
Assessing wetland health through monitoring is
vital to their protection. Because wetland
resources support healthy environments,
communities, and economies, effective
watershed management should include
conservation and restoration of wetlands and
their functions. Knowledge gained from wetland
monitoring allows water resource managers to:
  • More effectively protect wetland and
    aquatic resources.
  • Select and prioritize wetlands and
    watersheds for restoration.
  • Better manage watershed impacts.
  • Determine whether proposed projects will
    create water quality problems.
  • Evaluate the effects of the placement of fill
    on a watershed.
  • Aid in evaluating mitigation projects.
  • Help assess  methods to limit pollution
    sources to waterways.
  • Encourage wiser watershed planning.
  • Better understand how wetlands contribute
    to the functioning of the watershed as a
                                     Because of their strategic
                                     position in the landscape,
                                     wetlands help attenuate

  Polls around the
  demonstrate that
  the American
  public values
  water quality.
  For example, in a
  1999 survey
  conducted by the
  City of Lenexa,
  Kansas, 1,169
  citizens and 418
  businesses listed
  the following top
  three  concerns for
  city improvements
  (in order):
  (1) protect water
  quality, (2) limit
  damage to
  structures, and
  (3) minimize
  street flooding.
Monitoring wetlands helps to ensure
quality habitat for wildlife like this
little blue heron that depend on
wetlands to survive.
Can  Your Program  Benefit From
Wetland Monitoring?
The purpose of the Clean Water Act (CWA)
is to "restore and maintain the chemical,
physical, and biological integrity of the
Nation's waters." We are all concerned about
protecting the quality and quantity of water for
ourselves and future generations. Wetland
monitoring, as prescribed under CWA Section
305(b), can aid us in attaining that goal.

Many water programs can benefit from wetland
monitoring. States and tribes can monitor
wetland health to develop ecologically based
programs. This provides the programmatic
foundation for refining existing wetland water
quality standards (CWA Section 303),
monitoring and reporting the condition of
wetlands (CWA Section 305  (b)), influencing
permit decisions (CWA Sections 401 and 404),
identifying impaired waters (CWA Section
303(d)), obtaining additional resources for
monitoring wetlands (CWA Section 106), and
evaluating the performance of nonpoint control
measures (CWA Section 319). Other state and
federal programs, such as stormwater (CWA
Section 402) and source water protection (Safe
Drinking Water Act (SDWA)), may also benefit
from integrating wetland monitoring.

Examples Of How Wetland
Monitoring Supports Water-related

Water Quality Standards: CWA Section 303
Few states or tribes have specifically incorporated
wetlands into their water quality standards.
Wetlands are often assigned the designated uses
           and criteria of adjacent rivers or
           lakes, which may be ecologically
           inappropriate for wetlands. Water
           quality standards include basic
           components of designated uses,
           narrative and numeric criteria, and
           an antidegradation policy. When
           specifically tailored to wetlands,
           they provide  a consistent basis for
           the development of policies and
           technical procedures for managing
           activities that impact wetlands.
           Wetland-specific designated uses
           and criteria provide greater
           protection for a state's or tribe's
           wetlands by specifying the condition
           of the resource being protected.
           Bioassessments provide data on the
           aquatic life support uses of a
           particular wetland or wetland type
           and will provide data upon which to
derive biological criteria. A state or tribe can
protect wetlands from activities that fall outside
the jurisdiction of the federal 404 permit program
by specifically identifying the impacting activity in
its antidegradation policy.

Tracking and reporting conditions:
CWA Section 305(b)
Under  CWA Section 305 (b), states and tribes
are required to report on the quality of their
waters, including wetlands. Through ambient
water quality monitoring, states determine if a
waterbody satisfies the criteria associated with
each of its designated uses. Waterbodies that
satisfy  the criteria are deemed to attain water
quality standards, while those that do not
satisfy  the criteria are deemed impaired. The
reporting requirement, a legal mandate, also
has the practical aspect of offering individuals
and public officials an opportunity to better
understand the implications of their activities
on the  condition of their resources.

Funding for wetland monitoring:
CWA Section 106 and Section 104(b)3
CWA Section 106 provides funds to states and
tribes to monitor waters, including wetlands.
Monitoring wetlands using bioassessments is
critical to adequately protecting these resources
and, through the identification of impaired
wetlands, can also increase the amount of funds
available for monitoring state waters.

The Wetland Program Development Grants
described in Section  104(b)3 provides states,
tribes, and local governments (S/T/LGs) an
opportunity to develop projects which build and
refine comprehensive wetland programs. Since
1995 Congress has appropriated $15 million
annually to support the grant program. EPA
encourages S/T/LGs to build effective
comprehensive wetland programs in six areas,
which includes monitoring and assessment (Core
Elements of a Comprehensive Wetland Program
available on the web  at www.epa.gov/owow/
wetlands/initiative/fv 0 2 elements. html.

Identifying impaired waters and TMDL
implementation plans: CWA Section 303(d)
CWA Section 303 (d) requires states and tribes
to identify impaired waters and develop total
maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for those
waters. Wetland monitoring can provide
information on whether wetlands need to be
added  to or removed from the list of impaired
waters. In addition, wetland monitoring can
support the development of TMDL implemen-
tation plans, which should always include

hydro logically connected wetlands. Restoring
and maintaining the health of wetlands can
improve the recovery of impaired waters.

Influencing federal permits and licenses:
CWA Section 401
CWA Section 401 water quality certification
gives states and tribes broad authority to certify,
condition, or deny any federal permit or license
that would violate their water quality
standards. Affected permits and licenses
include: dam relicensing, CWA Section 404
dredge and fill permits, and CWA Section 402
point source discharge permits  in non-
delegated states. A state's water quality
certification program, however, is only as
strong as the water quality standards upon
which they are based.

Evaluating effectiveness ofnonpoint source
controls, restoration, andBMPs: CWA
Section 319
Many federal, state, and local programs
attempt to restore wetlands and use BMPs to
reduce the amount and impact  of nonpoint
source pollution. However, few programs
evaluate how well the activities actually
improve the overall ecological condition of
wetlands. Monitoring can benefit wetland
programs by evaluating the effectiveness of
restoration and best management practices,
such as buffer strips, designed to improve the
condition of wetlands. In addition, CWA
Section 319 requires states to monitor the
effectiveness of these methods used to reduce
the amount and impact of nonpoint source
pollution. Wetland monitoring  can improve the
investment of limited conservation resources.

Identifying priority watersheds and
demonstra ting recovery of wa tersheds
At a watershed scale, monitoring can be used to
demonstrate the value of wetlands at protecting
or improving the condition of other waterbodies
in a landscape and document the effectiveness
of watershed recovery plans (e.g., TMDL
implementation plans, Watershed Restoration
Action Strategies, Comprehensive Conservation
and Management Plans). Many surface streams
and lakes are listed as impaired due to  nutrient
loading, sedimentation, and hydrologic
modification. Scientific literature demonstrates
wetlands' ability to decrease nutrient loading
and sedimentation. An assessment of the
condition of naturally occurring and restored
wetlands is integral to deciding whether in-stream
and lake resources are on a path toward recovery.
Wetland Tidbits
  •  Recent research suggests that by restoring
     wetlands to 1 percent of the watershed,
     nitrate and herbicide runoff can be
     reduced by up to 50 percent  (Robinson,

  •  "Apart from a wetland's own quality,
     because wetlands are good at filtering
     nonpoint source pollution, further loss of
     wetlands in impaired watersheds could
     increase total daily maximum loads
     (TMDLs) over time. Similarly, ongoing
     wetland destruction could push
     unimpaired watersheds over the line into
     TMDL territory" (McCallie, 2000).

  •  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
     Service and other researchers,  a single
     acre of wetland can store 1-1.5 million
     gallons of floodwater. The capacity for
     floodwater retention varies among
     wetland types, but prairie pothole
     wetlands have been shown to store the
     most. Regardless of wetland type, a
     network of small wetlands can store an
     enormous amount of water.

McCallie, Grady. 2000. Wetland Water Quality
Standards—An Unfinished Foundation for TMDLs.
National Wetlands Newsletter.  Environmental Law
Institute. Vol. 22. No. 3. Page 9.
Robinson, Ann. 1995. Small and seasonal does not
mean insignificant: Why it's worth standing up for tiny
and temporary wetlands. Journal of Soil and Water
Conservation. November-December 1995, Pages 586-590.
Assessing the health
of wetlands can help
determine if they
should be removed
from a state's
303(d) list.
                                                 Wetlands are often assigned the water quality criteria of nearby lakes or
                                                 rivers, which are ecologically inappropriate for wetlands.

        When we destroy wetlands,
  there  can be  enormous impacts.
        If we preserve the health of
     wetlands and restore wetland
      ecosystems, it simply follows
        that we generate associated
               environmental,  social,
              and economic benefits.
                                  The Wetland Fact Sheet Series
 American Avocet
                       Wetlands Overview
                          es of Wetlands
                       Functions & Values of Wetlands
                       Threats to Wetlands
                       Wetland Restoration
        Fundina Wetland Projects
       Wetland Monitorina & Assessment
       Sustainable Communities
       Volunteerina for Wetlands
       Teachina about Wetlands
                               EPA Regional
Region 1 - CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT
Matt Schweisberg
  (617)918-7628 • schweisberg.matt@epa.gov

Region 2 - NJ, NY, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
Mary Ann Thiesing
  (212)637-3818 • thiesing.mary@epa.gov

Region 3 - DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV
Regina Poeske
  (215)814-2783 • poeske.regina@epa.gov

Region 4 - AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN
Bill Ainslie
  (404)562-9400 • ainslie.William@epa.gov

Region 5 - IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
Sue Elston
  (312)886-6115 • elston.sue@epa.gov
Region 6 - AR, LA, NM, OK, TX
Norm Sears
  (214)665-8336 • sears.norman@epa.gov

Region 7 - IA, KS, MO, NE
Kathy Mulder
  (913)551-7542 • mulder.kathy@epa.gov

Region 8 - CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY
Glenn Rodriguez
  (303)312-6832 • rodriguez.glenn@epa.gov

Region 9 - AZ, CA, HI, NV, American Samoa, Guam
Paul Jones
  (415)744-1976 * iones.paul@epa.gov

Region 10-AK, ID, OR, WA
Ralph Rogers
  (206)553-4012 • rogers.ralph@epa.gov
Related Fact Sheets
Wetland Monitoring and Assessment: A Technical Framework Fact Sheet. EPA843-F-01-002h
Funding Wetland Projects: Wetland Program Development Grants Fact Sheet. EPA 843-F-01-0021