Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Beneficial Use Reconnaissance Program

In 1993, DEQ embarked on a pilot monitoring program, the Beneficial Use Reconnaissance Project (now Program), nicknamed BURP, which combined biological monitoring and habitat assessment to determine the quality of Idaho's waters. The purpose of BURP is to help Idaho meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act by providing data to use in determining the existing uses and beneficial use support status of Idaho's water bodies. The program has been implemented statewide since 1994.

How BURP Data Are Collected

Each summer, DEQ BURP technicians follow standardized procedures to collect aquatic insects, conduct fish surveys, measure water chemistry, and document habitat conditions in streams, rivers, and lakes. BURP surveys are performed during the same time period each year so the information is comparable from one year to the next.

Aquatic insects and fish are very sensitive to changes in water quality, so their presence, abundance, and health serve as indicators of the overall quality of a water body. Generally, unpolluted waters support a greater variety of aquatic insects and fish than polluted waters.

How BURP Data Are Used

BURP data are evaluated against Idaho's water quality standards using Idaho's Water Body Assessment Guidance to determine if the water body is meeting standards and supporting beneficial uses. If a water body is not meeting water quality standards, DEQ develops a water quality improvement plan, or total maximum daily load (TMDL). If a water body is meeting standards, it will be monitored again in the future to ensure it continues to meet standards.

The results of BURP monitoring are used in other ways as well, including providing data for use in the following:

  • Developing water quality standards and criteria
  • Compiling Idaho's Integrated Report, which shows the condition of all the state's waters and a list of impaired waters
  • Preparing subbasin assessments

How DEQ Ensures Quality BURP Data

The data gathered from BURP monitoring are the basis for many surface water quality decisions made by DEQ. However, those decisions are only as good as the data they are based on. DEQ ensures quality BURP data by providing centralized training for BURP crews, using a standardized manual, following annual work plans, conducting annual field audits, and following a quality assurance plan.

Centralized Training

Centralized training for regional BURP coordinators and BURP field crews ensures that all BURP data from across the state are collected and recorded in the same manner. Each year's training includes on-the-ground training in collection techniques and a review of the BURP field manual and current year's work plan.

BURP Field Manual for Streams

The BURP field manual describes the BURP data collection process including the assumptions, methods, and equipment required to provide statewide consistency in data collection.

BURP Annual Work Plans and Field Audits

Each year, the BURP annual work plan provides background information about BURP and lists yearly objectives, special considerations, and the watersheds to be sampled. Annual work plans also help provide consistency within the program and serve as a substantial portion of BURP's quality assurance/quality control program. In addition, a one-day field audit is held each year with each BURP field crew as it samples a stream reach. The purpose of the audit is to ensure that all protocols are being followed. The BURP field crews receive feedback on their techniques the day of the audit, and a report summarizing all of the audits is written at the end of the field season.

BURP Quality Assurance Project Plan

The BURP quality assurance project plan describes DEQ's quality control measures for using and processing BURP field data sheets.

Water Body Assessment Guidance

The Water Body Assessment Guidance (WBAG) describes DEQ's methods for evaluating data and determining beneficial use support of Idaho water bodies. Assessing a water body involves analyzing and integrating multiple types of data to determine the degree of beneficial use support and biological integrity of the water body and compile descriptive information about the water body. The current WBAG, published in 2002, replaced the original WBAG published in 1996.

DEQ recognizes three classifications of beneficial use support status: fully supporting, not fully supporting, and not assessed. “Fully supporting” means that a water body is in compliance with water quality standards and criteria and supports all designated and existing beneficial uses. “Not fully supporting” refers to a water body that is not in compliance with all water quality standards or criteria or is not supporting all beneficial uses. “Not assessed” describes water bodies that have either not been monitored by DEQ at all or have been monitored to some extent but are missing critical information needed to complete an assessment.

Water Body Assessment Guidance Framework

Two framework documents (one for rivers and one for small streams) provide technical information supporting the aquatic life use support section (Section 6) of the WBAG.