There has been an increasing need for uniformly high quality basic data for making decisions related to the regulation of wastes and the protection of the environment, especially the quantity and quality of the nation's water resources. Hundreds of Federal and non-Federal agencies have recognized the need for high-quality standards that provide greater comparability, compatibility, and usability of all types of environmental data. The wide use of computerized data banks, also has accelerated the need for stored data of known quality.
Federal co-operation in the development of standard methods was initiated in the early 1970's through the U.S. Geological Survey's Office of Water Data Coordination. As a result of a co-ordinated effort of Federal agencies, with review by a group of non-Federal representatives, a “National Handbook of Recommended Methods for Water Data Acquisition” was produced. This handbook contained many ASTM existing standards and made recommendations for many others that could be developed by a variety of ASTM committees.
As the needs increased for high-quality data, and more regulatory and quality assurance requirements were developed, the need for consensus-type standards also increased. As a result, during the past several years joint efforts by the EPA, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Navy have resulted in a funding process whereby highly accelerated development has been made possible by ASTM for a wide variety of standard methods, practices, guides, and terminology. The process of developing such standards in relation to a variety of water resources, waste management, and environmental problems are described.