Conduct Monitoring

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Watershed Management Process
Build Partnerships
Characterize the Watershed
Set Goals and Identify Solutions
Design an Implementation Program
Implement the Watershed Plan
Measure Progress and Make Adjustments

As part of the development of your watershed plan you should have developed a monitoring component to track and evaluate the effectiveness of your implementation efforts. Measurable progress is critical to ensuring continued support of watershed projects, and progress is best demonstrated with the use of monitoring data that accurately reflect water quality conditions relevant to the identified problems. Monitoring is vital in determining progress in reducing pollutant loads. EPA, states, and tribes conduct intensive monitoring, assessment, and watershed planning activities to track water quality, identify polluted waters, identify nonpoint source load reductions, and develop pollution control plans called total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs, all of which are important when developing your watershed plan. At this stage you are ready to actually conduct your monitoring activities.

There are many ways to monitor water conditions. To monitor the constituents in water, sediments, and fish tissue ¾such as levels of dissolved oxygen, suspended sediments, nutrients, metals, oils, and pesticides ¾monitoring specialists perform chemical measurements. Physical measurements of general conditions such as temperature, flow, water color, and the condition of stream banks and lake shores are also important. Biological measurements of the abundance and variety of aquatic plant and animal life and the ability of test organisms to survive in sample water are also widely used to monitor water conditions. See EPA's Biological Assessment page for more information on biological assessment methods and the status of biological assessment programs within the U.S.

Monitoring can be conducted in the following ways: 1) at regular sites on a continuous basis (fixed station monitoring); 2) selected sites on an as needed basis or to answer specific questions (intensive surveys); 3) on a temporary or seasonal basis (for example, during the summer at bathing beaches); or 4) on an emergency basis (such as after a spill). Increasingly, monitoring efforts are aimed at determining the condition of entire watersheds.

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