Ensuring water quality through rigorous testing, the DMR-QA program stands as a cornerstone of environmental protection.

Established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Discharge Monitoring Report-Quality Assurance (DMR-QA) program has played a pivotal role for decades in safeguarding aquatic environments. By rigorously verifying the accuracy of water quality data reported by laboratories, the program supports reliable environmental management and regulatory compliance. Originally conceived to standardize water monitoring efforts, the DMR-QA continues to evolve, adapting to new scientific methodologies and technological advancements while ensuring that laboratories maintain high standards of analytical precision. This ongoing commitment helps ensure the integrity of environmental data critical for protecting public health and ecosystems.

The program’s origin and purpose

The DMR-QA program remains a mainstay in safeguarding water quality and promoting responsible environmental practices.

Since 1978, the Discharge Monitoring Report-Quality Assurance (DMR-QA) program has been in place, ensuring the accuracy and reliability of water quality data and is a critical initiative overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Waters ERA has been a DMR-QA accredited PT provider since 1999. The program's establishment dates back to the early days of environmental regulation when the need for consistent and trustworthy monitoring of discharges into water bodies became evident. The DMR-QA program emerged as a response to this need. The program was established to evaluate the analytical ability of laboratories performing self-monitoring analysis required by their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. It continues to evolve to accommodate changing scientific methods, technological advancements, and regulatory shifts. Its enduring presence contributes significantly to environmental protection, public health, and informed decision-making.


Study participation

The study covers various aspects, including chemistry, microbiology, and Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) tests. Each year, major and selected minor permittees under the NPDES program are required to participate in the annual DMR-QA study. To participate, laboratories must acknowledge receipt of the study package sent to them by the U.S. EPA by verifying their address with their state DMR-QA coordinator. Laboratories receive proficiency testing (PT) samples from an accredited PT provider and then report results for analytes listed in their permits, provided they are also included in the DMR-QA study analyte list. Not all analytes listed on a permittee’s NPDES permit may be included in an individual DMR-QA study. Some states have been exempted from DMR-QA based on EPA-approved waivers.



dmr-qa-full-exemption-legendFully exempt states: California, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin

dmr-qa-partial-exemption-legendPartial exemption states: Arkansas (for certain permittees), Louisiana (for commercial laboratories), Maine (for certified laboratories), New Hampshire (for specific parameters), and Oklahoma (for accredited laboratories)


Enforcement and accountability

Inspections, data validation, penalties, and transparency mechanisms enforce compliance.

 The U.S. EPA oversees DMR-QA implementation, ensuring laboratories comply with requirements. The U.S. EPA conducts regular inspections of facilities subject to NPDES permits. During these inspections, the U.S. EPA verifies that laboratories adhere to DMR-QA requirements and inspectors assess laboratory practices, equipment calibration, record-keeping, and PT participation. When data is submitted for DMR-QA, the U.S. EPA reviews the data for accuracy and consistency and any anomalies or discrepancies trigger further investigation. Any laboratories failing to meet DMR-QA standards may face corrective action. Further, non-compliance can result in penalties, fines, or legal actions. Penalties vary based on severity and frequency of violations. To provide transparency and encourage compliance by holding facilities accountable, all DMR data is publicly accessible through the U.S. EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database. The U.S. EPA also collaborates with state and regional agencies to enforce DMR-QA and state regulators oversee compliance within their jurisdictions. By engaging stakeholders and providing guidance to laboratories on DMR-QA requirements, the U.S. EPA is working to foster awareness and encourage voluntary compliance to maintain accurate and reliable water quality data to safeguard our environment and public health. Industry associations, environmental groups, and communities also play a role in promoting adherence to DMR-QA standards.


Program benefits

DMR-QA plays a pivotal role in safeguarding our environment and ensuring reliable water quality information.

The DMR-QA program ensures that laboratories conducting self-monitoring analyses for NPDES permits maintain high standards of accuracy, and by participating in proficiency testing, laboratories validate their analytical methods, equipment, and personnel competence, leading to reliable data. In addition, participation in the DMR-QA study encourages laboratories to continually improve and identify areas for enrichment. The program contributes to effective environmental management by identifying potential pollution sources and ensuring compliance with permit requirements. Accurate water quality data is essential for assessing the impact of discharges on aquatic ecosystems and to help protect public health by ensuring that discharges do not pose risks to drinking water sources or recreational waters. Policymakers, regulators, and stakeholders rely on DMR-QA to make informed decisions and enable prompt action in case of violations or emergencies. Finally, the program establishes consistent protocols and criteria for laboratory testing and these standardized procedures enhance comparability of data across different facilities.

Discharge Monitoring Report-Quality Assurance

EPA.GOV - Discharge Monitoring Report-Quality Assurance Study Program