The following guidance is for the submittal of water quality data by external data providers to MassDEP's Watershed Planning Program (WPP). Data that is submitted and provided to WPP may be used to make decisions regarding surface water quality assessments as required by Sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Detailed information on data submittal can be found in the Data Submittal Guidelines for External Data  doc format of Data Submittal Guidelines for External Data
. Submittal of Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPS) for MassDEP review is a separate process and is explained  in the QAPP Submittal and Approval Process  doc format of QAPP Submittal and Approval Process

External Data Review Process

WPP categorizes external data into 3 general levels, which are related to the monitoring objectives (i.e., why the data was collected):

  1. Educational/Stewardship-level
  2. Screening level, and
  3. Regulatory/Assessment level.

While extremely important, data collected primarily for educational and/or stewardship purposes (level 1) generally does not meet the rigor (i.e., accuracy, precision, frequency, comparability, overall confidence, etc) required for use in making water quality assessment decisions or in developing TMDLs. Although this type of data can be submitted, it is unlikely the data will be used for 305(b) or 303(d)-related decision making.

Screening-level data (level 2) are also very important and welcome, but generally fail to meet one or more WPP criteria required for direct use in water quality assessments or TMDLs. Level 2 data may meet the data quality objectives in the submitter's Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), but not those in the WPP's monitoring program QAPP approved by USEPA. Level 2 data may be used to direct future WPP sampling efforts and as supporting evidence.

Level 3 assessment-level data have been deemed by MassDEP, based on the WPP's external data review procedures, to be directly usable for 305(b) and 303(d) decision-making. These data are considered scientifically sound and legally defensible, and are typically the result of extensive planning, attention to detail, relatively stringent data quality objectives, training, standard field and lab procedures, metadata collection, project organization, and data verification. Contingent upon WPP staff review and approval, these data can help determine if a waterbody is meeting water quality standards or is impaired.

All external data submitted electronically are reviewed using a consistent procedure. Use of WPP's data submittal template is the preferred format for external data submittals. Once data are received by WPP, a standard data review spreadsheet is used to facilitate and document the review. NOTE: QAPP approval, submittal of the data integrity statement and/or submittal of monitoring data does not guarantee that the data will be used by the WPP in its CWA 305(b) use assessment decisions. 

When to Submit Data

Surface water quality or quantity data/information of all types is welcome at any time. Depending on when data are received, external data may be eligible for consideration in the current assessment cycle. If not received in time, external data/information will be considered in the next assessment cycle. Biennial integrated waterbody assessments are conducted in even-years (e.g., 2016). Selected groups may also receive direct solicitations for data from WPP.

What Information to Include in the Data Submittal

  1. Cover letter/email.
  2. Data Files:  External data submittals must be sent electronically, and should contain the data elements described in the DWM-WPP Data Submittal Template for WPP  xlsx format of Data Submittal Template for WPP
file size 9MB .  Data sent using other formats may not be reviewed for usability by the DWM-WPP.  The Excel data file(s) can be sent via email to, acceptable file transfer protocol or CD.  Data file(s) must include quality control data (i.e., blanks, duplicates, etc.).  All submitted data should be citable.  
  3. Statement of Data Integrity doc format of Statement of Integrity
  4. Electronic copy of approved QAPP
  5. In addition to the final data submittal, a summary report (optional) may also be provided.  Suggested content for data reports can be found in the Recommended Content of Data Report Submittals for CWA Reporting Purposes  doc format of Recommended Content of Data Report Submittals

Where to Send the Data

Electronic data files and related information can be sent to the DWM-WPP email: For regular mail delivery (e.g., CD), data can be sent to the following address:  

External Data Coordinator
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Water Resources, Division of Watershed Management, Watershed Planning Program
8 New Bond St., Worcester, MA. 01606

Data Submittal Checklist:  All information should be sent electronically via e-mail or CD.

(__) Cover Letter/email

(__) Data file(s) using WPP data submittal template

(__) Statement of Data Integrity

(__) Copy of approved QAPP