The Monitoring Framework
The monitoring, protection, and restoration of our water resources and their watersheds is the focus of significant efforts and resources each year. These efforts are made by a variety of government agencies, industry, academic researchers, and private organizations.
Assessing our waters and watersheds accurately, effectively, and efficiently requires that we work collaboratively and strive for methods and data comparability. Factors that can impede collaboration and comparability include critical differences in monitoring design, sampling protocols and analytical methods, data management, and data accessibility. To address these obstacles, the National Water Quality Monitoring Council, with input from the monitoring community, has developed the Framework for Water Quality Monitoring.
The Framework is used to:
- Guide the activities of the National Water Quality Monitoring Council by identifying, connecting, and prioritizing specific aspects of the various framework elements;
- Facilitate communication among professionals and volunteers working on different elements of monitoring programs (e.g. laboratory analysis and data analysis/ interpretation);
- Guide the design of water quality monitoring programs to ensure that all components are included, balanced, connected, and collectively focused on producing quality information; and
- Underscore the need for a warehouse of consistent information on water monitoring design methodologies.
Communicate, Coordinate, Collaborate:
The "3 Cs" indicate the importance of inclusiveness in the monitoring process. This can be enhanced by including State and Regional Monitoring Councils as partners in monitoring efforts as well as encouraging appropriate public participation throughout the monitoring process.
Develop Monitoring Objectives:
The monitoring process begins when information goals are defined to respond to specific water resource management needs. Questions that need to be answered at this stage include: What is the purpose of the monitoring effort, who will use the data, and how will the data be used?
Design Monitoring Program:
The monitoring design must be developed to meet the monitoring objectives. Factors that must be considered at this stage of the process include the environmental setting, location of sampling sites, frequency of sample collection, the constituents to be measured, and the methods to be used in the field and the laboratory.
Collect Field and Laboratory Data:
Measurements taken in the fi eld and laboratory translate the water's properties into quantitative data that provide information about the status of water quality. Accurate and complete documentation of procedures is essential at this stage of the process.
Compile and Manage Data:
Data need to be usable and accessible. It is essential that the data in a management system include sufficient descriptive information about the data (i.e., "metadata") so that it can be shared and compared among managers and the public.
Assess and Interpret Data:
At this point, data starts to become information that will address the monitoring objectives. Ideally, the data interpretation methods have been identifi ed prior to sampling so that the data are collected in direct support of the analysis methodology.
Convey Findings and Evaluate Program:
The information resulting from data interpretation is disseminated, by various means, for use by all stakeholders, including water quality managers, policy makers and the public. Information may be conveyed in various forms depending on the needs and preferences of the audience.
One of the strengths of the monitoring framework is the emphasis on feedback at every step. The successful application of the monitoring framework will help to assure that the results of water quality monitoring can be used to understand, protect, and restore our waters.