DATA: Watershed Index Online (WSIO) and Statewide Recovery Potential Screening (RPS) Tool Series Updated for 2020

From the US EPA:

The EPA Healthy Watersheds Team is pleased to announce the completion of Version 2.1 of the Watershed Index Online (WSIO), a national library of watershed attributes used for comparing watershed characteristics anywhere in the conterminous United States. The newly updated WSIO incorporates 178 updated and 20 new HUC12 indicators and contains 436 HUC12 indicators in total.  The improvements in the national watershed indicator library can be accessed from the WSIO website by downloading Excel or geodatabase versions of the HUC12 indicator library, through the WSIO Tool, or as a web service. Additional topics covered by the new/updated indicators include:

  • 2016 land cover from the National Land Cover Database (NLCD)
  • 2016 imperviousness from the NLCD
  • 2016 agriculture on sloped lands (calculated from NLCD and elevation data)
  • 2001-2016 land cover change from the NLCD
  • 2010-2050 developed cover projections (updated using ICLUS v2)
  • Wildfire vulnerability (updated using 2019 USFS Wildfire Potential dataset)
  • Protected lands (updated using 2019 Protected Areas Database)
  • Conservation easements
  • National wild & scenic rivers
  • NPDES dischargers (updated using 2019 Facility Registry Service data)
  • Agricultural phosphorus applications (published by EnviroAtlas in 2018)
  • Livestock and septic system counts from STEPL
  • Drinking water intakes, wells, and protection areas (updated using 2018 SDWIS data)
  • NPS projects (updated using 2018 GRTS data)

Many of these WSIO indicators can be readily applied to compare watersheds using the Recovery Potential Screening (RPS) Tool, a systematic method and tool for comparing watersheds based on characteristics relevant to successful restoration or protection. All of the lower 48 US States have newly-refreshed RPS Tools, which are now downloadable from the RPS website. Noteworthy changes in the 2020 RPS Tools include: a new total of 268 watershed indicators at HUC12 scale (custom tools may have more indicators and/or scales); updated indicator values from WSIO Version 2.1; and improvements to the “Setup” and “Add Indicators” worksheets. RPS projects have now occurred or are ongoing in more than 38 States and Territories and we have provided training webinars and workshops for NJ, NC, MI, and the Watershed Resources Registry (WRR) States in recent months. Since our first national release in 2014, we and our users have identified better data sources, new ways to apply the RPS Tool, and features that make the RPS Tool easier to use in comparing watersheds. We continue to work with States and many additional partners to help them apply RPS in useful ways such as prioritization under the 303(d) Vision, nutrient management plans, and nonpoint source control strategies and program plans.

Looking beyond the latest releases of WSIO and RPS, we are planning additional enhancements (including additional water quality stressor indicators and demographic social indicators) for the next WSIO and RPS Tool mini release later this year. Due to the major reconstruction of EPA’s ATTAINS database, the newly updated WSIO and RPS Tools do not include indicators of water quality assessments, impairments, or Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). Our team is working to generate indicators of water quality assessments, impairments, and TMDLs in HUC12s with reporting cycle data submitted by States to ATTAINS. In the meantime, all RPS Tools can accept user-added indicators derived from recent reporting cycles as available. As resources permit, we will continue to offer assistance to States, Territories, Tribes and other partners in using or customizing RPS Tools upon request.

For more information, please visit the RPS, HWP and WSIO websites (all three easily accessed from one healthy watersheds hub that you all should bookmark).  Additionally, feel free to reach out to the following Healthy Watersheds Team contacts with any questions:  

Miranda Chien-Hale (EPA, Watershed Branch): oversees the WSIO and RPS Contractor support

Emily Cira (EPA, Watershed Branch): supports RPS and data integration needs

Steve Epting (EPA, Nonpoint Management Branch): oversees the Healthy Watersheds Protection programmatic integration

Andy Somor (Cadmus Group, Inc.): as the RPS Tool expert, provides contractor support for state-specific and general projects as tasked by EPA

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