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Introduction to Aquatic Resource Monitoring

Monitoring activities have been conducted on a wide variety of Aquatic Resources for a diverse set of objectives and information needs.  In general these programs are intended to provide information on compliance with regulations, establish the aquatic resource conditions or status, measure the effectiveness of management and regulatory programs, and supply information to policy planning and decision making processes.  Considerable expenditures have been made on such programs, often with mixed results and information provided.  ORD initiated the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) to advance the science of natural resource monitoring at regional and national scales.  The EMAP goals were to develop the strategy and methodology to:

  1. Estimate the current status, trends and changes in selected indicators  of condition of the nation's ecological resources on a regional basis with known confidence.
  2. Estimate the geographic coverage and extent of the nation's ecological resources with known confidence.
  3. Seek associations between selected indicators of natural and human stresses and indicators of the condition of ecological resources.
  4. Provide annual statistical summaries and periodic assessments of the nation's ecological resources.

Numerous publications and results regarding EMAP can be found via the web sitehttp:\\www.epa.gov\emap.  That information includes the many components and areas that need to be addressed to successfully develop and implement an aquatic resource monitoring program. 

A significant task in the development of EMAP has been the statistical design and analysis methodologies to support meeting the goal of "with known confidence".  This effort has drawn heavily on existing survey design literature and applications in other areas.  In addition, research results are now available to provide the statistical foundations for aquatic resource monitoring.  The main focus of this web site is to provide information to facilitate the development of the design and analysis aspects for an aquatic resource monitoring program.  Additional information and links are also provided for federal, state and tribal aquatic monitoring programs.

Review of past and current aquatic monitoring programs leads to recognition that some common characteristics of the design and analyses for such programs that fail, i.e. don't meet the expectations for producing information regarding the status and trends of the aquatic resource can generally be categorized into four broad classes. 

  1. The Objectives for monitoring are not clearly, precisely stated and understood.
  2. Monitoring measurement protocols, survey design, and statistical analysis become scientifically out-of-date.
  3. Monitoring results are not directly tied to management decision making
  4. Results are not timely nor communicated to key audiences in terms they can understand

The material on this web page, the  Design and Analysis methodology developed within EMAP have been expressly developed to substantially increase the likelihood of monitoring program success.  Careful attention to following this guidance, consultation with the Monitoring Design and Analysis Team, and involvement of all interested parties have been shown to produce useful aquatic resources monitoring results.  The key aquatic resource survey design components are:

Processes for the Development and Implementation of Aquatic Resource Monitoring Programs

These web pages provide information to facilitate the understanding, evaluation, development, implementation, analysis and reporting of aquatic resource monitoring programs based on probabilistic surveys.  Adoption of these principles and processes, together with consultation with the Design & Analysis Team, will significantly increase the successfulness and useful information from monitoring programs.

A discussion of the benefits of adopting and implementing probability survey designs is included. In general, the benefits are: 1) better data and information, and 2) with relatively reduced monitoring costs.

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