Grant Paves Way for Adding Ohio, Allegheny River Basins to
The State Journal
4 July 2012
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 water quality monitoring and
reporting program known as QUEST – Quality Useful Environmental
Originally focused on the Monongahela River Basin, the new
Colcom-funded 3 Rivers QUEST project also will include the
Allegheny and upper Ohio river Basins.
WVWRI began the strategic Quest program in July 2009 after
concerns arose over high concentrations of total dissolved solids
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
In addition, watershed organizations also are 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.
The program received national recognition when it was awarded a
Regional IMPACT Award by the National Institutes for Water
"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."
The Colcom Foundation, which seeks to foster a sustainable
environment to ensure quality of life, has awarded numerous grants
in recent years to watershed organizations seeking to monitor
"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.
TheWVWRI 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
She added that, "the distinct yet collaborative approach to
collecting and disseminating water quality information provides
researchers, recreationists, policy makers, regulating agencies
and industry a better overall picture of the health of waters."
The expanded QUEST program also will 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.
"Whether it's monitoring equipment or providing training to their
volunteers, these funds will help meet the individualized needs of
a particular group," said Waldron.
"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 WVWRI Director Dr. Paul
Ziemkiewicz. "I'm not aware of any other large river system in the
country that has this level of detailed, publicly accessible
monitoring information. It has already allowed us to work with
stakeholders to improve water quality on the Monongahela River and
identify areas that need attention. 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