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Lake and Reservoir Monitoring


Topics in this guide include how to establish goals, identify data uses and users, assign staff responsibilities, establish a pilot program, prepare a quality assurance plan, and fund a program.

Setting General Goals

As a first step, organizers should establish their general goals. Are they interested in providing credible information on water quality conditions to State and local agencies? Or are they primarily interested in educating the public about water quality issues? Do they wish to build a constituency of involved citizens?

All three goals can be achieved by a well-organized and maintained program, but it is important to determine which of these goals is paramount. This methods manual is directed primarily to those programs that seek to improve the understanding of lake conditions and protection needs by supplementing water quality data.

Identifying Data Uses

Early in the planning stage, organizers should identify how data collected by the lake volunteer program will be used and who will use it. Data can be used to establish baseline conditions, determine trends in water quality, or identify current and emerging problems.

Prospective users of volunteer-collected data include State water quality analysts, planners, fisheries biologists, agricultural agencies, and parks and recreation staffs; local government planning and zoning agencies; university researchers; and Federal agencies. A planning committee made up of represen tatives from the identified data users should be convened early in the development of a program.

Initially, the planning committee must make several important decisions in the development of a volunteer monitoring program. Basically, the committee must decide:

Once the monitoring program is established, the planning committee should meet periodically to evaluate it, update objectives, and fine-tune activities. This review should ensure that the  monitoring efforts continue to provide useful information to those who need lake data.

Establishing Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Many potential users of data believe that only professionals can conduct sampling and generate high quality results.

This is not true. Given proper training and supervision, dedicated volunteers can conduct monitoring activities and collect samples that yield high quality data.

When forming data quality objectives, the planning committee must also examine the program budget. Sophisticated analysis of some param eters (yielding high precision and accuracy) usually comes at higher costs in terms of equipment, procedures, laboratory fees, agency time, and citizen training. These higher costs may be worthwhile if the program is oriented toward supplementing agency data collection.

For programs oriented more toward public education and participation, the use of less sensitive equipment and procedures may be in order. In this case, budget money could be better spent for public awareness materials and supporting an increase in citizen monitors. An efficient sampling design is one that balances cost components with acceptable levels of uncertainty in context with program goals and objectives.