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University of Wyoming


Defining a Monitoring Objective

The design and implementation of a monitoring program is determined by the objectives of the project, which must be clearly defined. All subsequent decisions about the monitoring program follow directly from the monitoring objectives.

Note that often there are multiple monitoring objectives within a watershed. It is none-the-less important to design monitoring programs for individual objectives. A review and comparison of the different monitoring programs required to meet different objectives within a watershed may result in combining some field or analytical efforts for more efficiency, but the individual monitoring programs should remain distinct to assure that specific project monitoring objectives are met.

Program Objective   Monitoring Program Considerations
Regulatory Compliance of an NPDES Permit   Typically most aspects of the monitoring program are established in the permit by a regulatory agency. The permit will often include what to sample, how often samples must be collected, what methods must be used, and who can collect the samples.
TMDL / BMP Effectiveness   These programs often have considerable room for creativity and flexibility, as long as the approach is justified in a valid sampling plan for the project and appropriate quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) are identified for all steps of the process. Typically the monitoring program addresses the pollutants of concern, but may include factors, watershed characteristics, or information about the actual BMP. As with regulatory monitoring, data credibility is a primary concern.
Educational Programming   Monitoring programs for educational programs are typically determined by cost, ease of methods, age appropriateness, and interest of volunteers. The intent of these programs is to help participants better understand water quality and watershed science. Data may be used for preliminary screening or to enhance a monitoring program, but typically are not use for regulatory or compliance purposes.
Baseline Data Collection   In some cases, there may not be any data on a given site. If this is the case, then a baseline study must be done to collect initial data. This can be used as a reference in the future to observe trend or as a basis on what to expect in future monitoring.