Strategy for Improving Water-Quality Monitoring in the United States ITFM Major Conclusions and Recommendations
Use Comparable Methods
Monitoring Program Goals and Designs
- Water-quality monitoring information is used to protect human health, to preserve and restore healthy ecological conditions, and to sustain a viable economy.
- Tens of thousands of public and private organizations monitor water quality for a wide variety of objectives.
- Total annual expenditures in the public and private sectors to control water pollution are tens of billions of dollars and climbing. Monitoring is necessary to judge the effectiveness of these investments.
- In the last decade, it has become clear that monitoring activities need to be improved and integrated better to meet the full range of needs more effectively and economically.
- A new monitoring approach is required to target water-pollution-control resources to priority concerns and to evaluate the effectiveness of actions taken to prevent or remediate problems. A better balance of ambient and compliance monitoring is needed.
- Incorporate monitoring as a critical element of program planning, implementation, and evaluation.
- Use collaborative teams comprised of monitoring organizations from all levels of government and the private sector to plan and implement monitoring improvements in geographic areas. Include volunteer monitoring efforts in these teams.
- Establish a National Water Quality Monitoring Council with representation from all monitoring sectors to develop guidelines for voluntary use by monitoring teams nationwide, to foster technology transfer and training, and to coordinate planning and resource sharing (Technical Appendix C).
- Link national ambient water-quality-assessment programs.
- Agree on sets of widely useful key physical, chemical, and biological indicators to support interjurisdictional aggregations of comparable information for decisionmaking across many scales (Technical Appendixes D and E).
- Use metadata standards to document and describe information holdings and to help secondary users judge whether data are useful for their applications.
- Link information systems to provide easier access by a variety of users to available holdings.
- Jointly develop and adopt for common use indicator and data-element names, definitions, and formats (Technical Appendix M).
- Implement a performance-based monitoring methods system to achieve comparable data, more flexible use of monitoring methods, and more cost effective monitoring (Technical Appendixes I, N, O).
- Jointly establish reference conditions or sites for shared use in biological and ecological assessments and comparisons. Reference conditions are critically needed to establish baseline conditions against which other water bodies or habitats can be evaluated (Technical Appendixes F and G).
- Design water-quality-monitoring programs and select indicators to measure progress in meeting clearly stated goals for aquatic resources, including State standards for designated uses (Technical Appendix B).
- Use flexible monitoring program designs tailored to the conditions, uses, and goals for water resources in specific area [table 2 (Final Report)].
- Use watersheds, ground-water basins, ecosystems, or other natural boundaries as planning and evaluation units for monitoring.
- Periodically evaluate monitoring efforts to ensure that they continue to meet management goals cost effectively. Use the framework presented in Technical Appendix B.
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- Regularly interpret, assess, and report measurements and raw data for use by the public and decisionmakers.