Watershed Monitoring Basics
In general terms, monitoring is the periodic or continuous collection of data (measured parameters) using consistent methods. The types of monitoring and the reasons for collecting data vary tremendously. Water quality monitoring is commonly defined as the sampling and analysis of water (lake, stream, river, estuary, or ocean) and conditions of the waterbody. Water quality monitoring can evaluate the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of a water body in relation to human health, ecological conditions, and designated water uses. Watershed monitoring is a more comprehensive approach to data collection that incorporates water quality as well as watershed conditions. For example, water quality monitoring conducted on a watershed basis would include monitoring physical, chemical, and/or biological condition of the waterbody as well as specific watershed characteristics (e.g. stream corridor traits, wetlands, and watershed land use/land cover patterns) that may be related to observed water quality. Watershed monitoring therefore evaluates the condition of the water resource while also providing valuable watershed information to help establish cause-and-effect relationships. Although this module introduces the principles of watershed monitoring, it emphasizes water quality monitoring as the major part of watershed monitoring and focuses on key points to consider when designing a sampling program.