This paper discusses a phased approach for characterization of multimedia discharges from industrial and energy processes. In a phased approach, as opposed to a direct approach, all streams are first surveyed using simplified, generalized sampling and analytical methods which permit the streams to be hazard-ranked. Detailed sampling and analysis is then applied first to streams ranked in the highest priority by the survey, and then to other streams in descending order of potential hazard. Another phase, initiated after complete characterization of potential problems, involves continuous monitoring of key indicator materials to evaluate long-term process variability. The phased approach has been sucessfully implemented on many programs. Level 1 results have been useful for defining potential problems for further study and directing additional resources into the areas of greatest need. While not all the elements have been effective on each study, every element has produced needed data in at least one individual study. In considering the utility of the approach, it is therefore necessary to consider the overall results. The procedures selected initially have been constantly improved in detail; however, no significant changes in the basic techniques have been necessary. The phased approach is, therefore, a viable and cost effective concept for identifying potential environmental problems associated with discharge from industrial and energy processes.