Ecological Assessments of West Virginia's Watersheds
An ecological assessment of a watershed includes evaluations of more than one aspect of watershed health. The term “ecological” implies that both organisms and their environments are studied together. The West Virginia DEP assesses three major aspects of watershed health when it performs an ecological assessment; water quality, habitat condition, and benthic macroinvertebrate community status. In a body of water, benthic macroinvertebrates are the bottom-dwelling (benthic) organisms that are large enough to be seen without the aid of microscopes (macro), and are not equipped with backbones (invertebrate).
By assessing these three aspects of watershed health, the DEP can evaluate stream resources, prioritize pollution mitigation activities, coordinate stream restoration projects, manage pollutant inputs, and allocate limited monetary and staffing resources better than if it were to assess only one aspect. An ecological assessment provides as well-rounded an evaluation of a watershed as can be expected from instantaneous sampling using limited resources.
The ecological assessments found in this website present the findings of scientific research in a manner that can be understood by the non-scientist. Maps, figures, graphs, and tables help visually explain the descriptive text, and the most recent reports include glossaries that explain potentially confusing acronyms and scientific words.
All 32 of West Virginia's watersheds will have an ecological assessment completed. As a new assessment is finished, the report will be added to this list. Currently, only the following 13 watersheds have a finished assessment.