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AN ASSESSMENT OF EPA's BASINS MODEL – WILL IT BECOME GOOD SCIENCE OR SERENDIPITOUS MODELING?

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Better Assessment Science Integrating Point and Nonpoint Sources (BASINS) is a geographic information system based tool developed by EPA's Office of Water to help states more efficiently target and evaluate water-bodies that are not meeting water quality standards. BASINS (EPA, 1996a, 1998) brings together data on water quality and quantity, land uses, point source loadings, and other related spatial data with supporting nonpoint and water quality model at a quicker and more effective pace. EPA developed BASINS, a geographic-based watershed tool to better integrate point and nonpoint source water quality assessments for the Nation's 2100+ watersheds. In its zeal to achieve this endpoint, EPA has initiated a simplistic approach that was expected to grow through scientific enhancements as TMDL developers become more familiar with modeling requirements. BASINS builds upon federal databases of water quality conditions and point source loadings for numerous parameters where quality assurance is suspect in some cases. Its design allows comprehensive assessments and modeling in typical Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) computations. While the TMDL utility is the primary reason BASINS was developed, other longer-range water quality assessments will become possible as the Agency expands the suite of assessment models and databases in future releases. The simplistic approach to modeling and user-friendly tools gives rise, however, to technical and philosophical concerns related to default data usage, seamless generation of model input files, and the failure of some utilities to work properly suggest to NCASI that serious problems may still exist and prompts the need for a more rigorous peer-review. Furthermore, sustainable training becomes paramount, as some older modelers will be unfamiliar with (Geographic Information System) GIS technology and associated computer skills. Overall, however, BASINS was judged to be an excellent beginning tool to meet the complex environmental modeling needs in the 21st Century.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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