Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Vicki Watson

Commitee Members

Brian Steele, Matthew McKinney


joint fact finding, metadata, Montana DEQ


University of Montana


This Master’s Thesis examines certain aspects of the frequently incongruous relationship in the State of Montana between the natural science of water quality measurement and the actual practices to which water quality management research is put. These discordances can be the source of misunderstandings about the purposes and uses for which data were collected. Moreover, miscues regarding the sharing of information among stakeholders have become more significant as adaptive and shared management programs continue to expand. At the core of this study are assessments of the value of water quality data generated by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and surveys of some of the potential consumers of water quality data generated by the Montana DEQ. Datasets examined are part of an ongoing project at the Montana DEQ known as the “Reference Stream Project.” Research was framed using two basic questions: (1) Are Reference Stream Project data supported by an appropriate metadata framework?; and (2) In general, are water quality data produced by the Montana DEQ socially and politically useful or relevant to consumers of water quality information? Question 1 is addressed using a structural analysis of existing metadata from the Reference Stream Project to infer overall reliability and usefulness of data quality for these types of water quality data. Question 2 is examined using social inquiry of water resource stakeholders who are potentially interested in water quality data, in order to evaluate the usefulness and relevance of state generated water quality data. Question 1 is the primary focus of the study. The research identified a noteworthy demand among stakeholders to collaborate and share data with each other, which can be accomplished, in part by the following steps: (1) increasing metadata structure; and, (2) encouraging joint fact finding processes to be undertaken by the greater cohort of water quality stakeholders in Montana. This study reaffirmed the need for water resource managers to be critical of how water quality data are stored and described, in order to create reliable, useful, and inclusive management processes.



© Copyright 2011 Jonathan Samuel Leiman