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Guide External Data Submittals to the Watershed Planning Program

MassDEP welcomes help from outside groups to gather data on surface water quality. Here are guidelines for submitting data to MassDEP.

Table of Contents


The following guidance is for the submittal of surface 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, linked below. Submittal of Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPS) for MassDEP review is a separate process and is explained  in the QAPP Submittal and Approval Process document below.

Additional Resources for Introduction

External Data Review Process

WPP categorizes external data into 3 general levels, which are related to the monitoring objectives (i.e., why the data were 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. For example, 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 determined 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, quality-controlled data can help determine if a waterbody is meeting water quality standards or is impaired.

All external data submitted electronically are reviewed using a defined and 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

  • MassDEP is developing a combined 2018/2020 Integrated Report (IR). The data submittal window for the 2018/2020 IR is closed.
  • The data submittal deadline for the 2022 IR will be determined at a later time.

For MassDEP’s CWA 305(b) and 303(d) assessment and reporting purposes, submittals of surface water quality or quantity data/information are welcome at any time, but must be submitted prior to the dates shown above to be considered in the development of the Integrated Report. Data submitted after these dates, including during the public comment period, will not be considered for the current assessment cycle, but will be reviewed and considered in the subsequent cycle. MassDEP is required to submit Integrated Reports to EPA in the Spring of even-numbered years.

What Information to Include in the Data Submittal

  • Cover letter / email.
  • 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 (see link below).  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.
  • Statement of Data Integrity (see link below).
  • Electronic copy of approved QAPP.
  • 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 document (see link below).

Additional Resources for What Information to Include in the Data Submittal

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