Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program Background

DEC has developed a long term Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Strategy to guide its stewardship of Alaska's marine and fresh waters. This strategy is intended to meet the federal expectations for state water quality stewardship activities outlined in the Clean Water Act in a manner influenced by Alaska's unique needs and challenges:

EXAMPLE: to characterize 3 million lakes, it would take every man, woman, and child in Alaska to visit five or six different lakes each. That impossible effort would just take care of the lakes, not streams, rivers, wetlands or marine waters.

  • Alaska contains over 40% of the United States freshwater resources:
    • hundreds of glaciers
    • over 20,000 navigable rivers
    • over 3 million lakes
    • millions of acres of wetlands
    • 45,000 miles of coastal marine shoreline

Alaska's shoreline makes up more than 50% of the total United States coastline. The surface area of coastal bays and estuaries in Alaska is 33,211 square miles, almost three times the estuarine area of the contiguous 48 states. The vast majority of Alaska's water resources are in pristine condition due to Alaska's size, sparse population, and the remote character of the state. Because of the abundance of its waters, Alaska must prioritize how limited state resources should be applied in monitoring and assessing its water resources.

Principal Operational Objectives for ADEC Division of Water AKMAP:

  1. Estimate current status, trends and changes in selected indicators of Alaska's aquatic ecological resources on a regional and statewide basis with known statistical confidence
  2. Estimate geographic coverage and extent of Alaska's aquatic ecological resources within a know statistical confidence interval
  3. Seek to establish associations between selected indicators of natural and anthropogenic stresses and indications of the condition of aquatic ecological resources
  4. Provide for statistical summaries and periodic assessments of Alaska's aquatic ecological resources.

Alaska's surface waters provide much of the economic, cultural, and aesthetic qualities which draw people to Alaska from all over the world. They include over 15,000 salmon streams - an important resource to sport, subsistence, and commercial fishing.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program (AKMAP) provides a practical, cost effective method to characterize Alaska's coastal and surface waters. The EPA has been the funding source for AKMAP, but partnerships are necessary to carry out the projects.

AKMAP incorporates EPA's probabilistic stratified random sampling design. The design is coupled with a common set of survey indicators to provide for a statistically unbiased, objective assessment of the overall environmental condition of Alaskan waters (EPA, 2001).

The Environmental Monitoring & Assessment Program (EMAP) is a national program coordinated through EPA, enabling us to compare AKMAP (Alaskan EMAP) results with other states' projects. The national EMAP webpage has general information about this nationwide effort. Other states in EPA Region 10 have done several EMAP projects under the Western EMAP (WEMAP) for several years. EPA Region 10 has an AK EMAP page.