Values of Long Term Monitoring


Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 10:24:11 -0700
From: “Williams, Gene”
Subject: [volmonitor] Values of Long-Term monitoring

I am looking for good arguments justifying the continuation of a monitoring program. We have a successful volunteer lake monitoring program that has been going for 13 years (a mere baby compared to the programs recognized in the recent email exchanges). Our program is well-supported by management, but each year there are questions such as: Haven’t you collected enough data yet? Don’t you have a good understanding of the lakes already? When does this program come to an end? Haven’t you satisfied most of your goals already? What’s the value of long-term monitoring compared to specific short term restoration projects? How do we convince elected officials and the public that this is not just another self-perpetuating government-funded program?

We obviously have responses to these questions—citing the value of long-term data and identifying trends, and the cost-effectiveness of volunteer monitoring, and the need for current, valid data as watershed conditions change and specific water quality concerns arise. But, I am looking to sharpen our responses and make even stronger statements about the value of long-term monitoring.

Any thoughts you have about this issue would be appreciated.

Gene Williams
Snohomish County Surface Water Management
2731 Wetmore Avenue
Everett, WA 98201
(425) 388-3464 x4563


Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 12:15:29 -0700 (PDT)
From: David J Wilson
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Values of Long-Term monitoring

Some additional arguments you’ve doubtless already thought of:

1. In developing areas, especially, changing situations and land use patterns bring new problems and exacerbate old ones. It is essential that one have both old and new data to spot trends that may require action. Long-term monitoring problems are somewhat like getting annual physical checkups from your doctor. It’s not a good idea to stop after you’ve had five or six!

2. Continued monitoring is needed to assess the effectiveness of various Best Management Practices as they are implemented. BMPs often cost quite a bit of money, and we need to be seeing how well they’re working.

3. In case regulatory or legal action is required, adequate and timely data are essential. Often in environmental work, comparisons between sites are needed. In order to make these with timely, relevant data, continuous establishment of an on-going baseline is necessary.

4. (Probably the least persuasive, but I’ll toss it into the pot anyway.) Ongoing monitoring programs help to educate the public and to focus its attention on environmental problems of current concern. No amount of emotional, highly visible tree-hugging and spotted owl-loving is likely to be as effective in the long haul as good, solid, current data that are carefully, conservatively, accurately interpreted.

Hope I’ve been able to be of some help. Best of luck.
Dave Wilson
Member, Huron River Watershed Council


Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 12:36:12 -0700
From: Chrys Bertolotto
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Values of Long-Term monitoring

Other items to add to the list:

Additional Eyes and Ears: Many agencies and organizations have limited resources. On-going volunteers have the knowledge and physical presence to identify and document problems quickly. Some examples include dumping, illicit water connections, vegetation clearing, invasive weed establishment, etc. With quick follow-up, these problems can be effectively addressed through the appropriate channels to remove that threat. Without the volunteer presence, those problems might go unnoticed and continue to threaten the natural resource quality.

I’ve found that providing a list of examples of some of the problems volunteers have spotted and their fixes has been very compelling.

Outside Data Uses: Different agencies may tap into your volunteer data for a variety of ‘implementation’ reasons: Clean Water Act Cleanup plans, Endangered Species Act Recovery Plans, tribal water quality assessments. Conveying how the use of hits data benefits the agency (and not just the natural resource) to meet larger regulatory mandates might help.

Chrys Bertolotto
City of Issaquah Resource Conservation Office (WA)
Water Quality and Habitat Stewardship Coordinator
(425) 837-3442


Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 18:53:28 -0400
From: “Stuart R. Lynde”
Subject: [volmonitor] RE: Values of Long-Term monitoring

Long-term monitoring is crucial to early detection of problems within the system. It is not unlike a periodic physical or an annual mammogram in health care terms. Long term monitoring allows for early detection of problems, before they become more significant and costly. As early detection of tumors via mammograms greatly increases the overall survival rate and lowers overall cost and recovery time in patients with breast cancer, so to does volunteer monitoring increase the likelihood of early detection, of many potential threats to a water body, resulting in quicker recovery and overall lower costs. These threats include establishment of invasive species, such as species of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs), invasive fish such the snakehead. or the early warnings of invasive invertebrate such as the zebra mussel. Early Detection in one system will increase chances of containing an invasive, or more importantly preventing the invasive from migrating to another nearby water body.

Volunteers are typically much more intimately associated with “their” water body, than are agency personnel. This closeness with a system allows them to better distinguish when something is “different”, even if they cannot quantify those changes. This kind of intuitive monitoring is very difficult to acquire without local involvement. They are quick to recognize subtle changes that are out of the norm for that particular water body,

Volunteer monitoring programs are more likely to recognize dramatic changes in a system more rapidly. Rarely do state officials notice something on a “drive by”. Typically, there is only time and funding to investigate a system that has been reported as having a problem. Volunteer monitoring groups play a key role in the early detection of gross changes, fish kills, dumping, short-lived toxic water quality changes. It’s the extreme changes like, dramatic pH changes, localized toxic events that kill quickly and can do long term damage. Unfortunately the root causes can disappear rapidly, or becomes so dilute as to make it difficult, if not impossible to track.

Volunteers can drive down the overall cost of monitoring a system. Volunteers can be used to do many of the tasks required to “prepare” collect and prepare samples for analytical analysis. In our own lab, we are able to offset the cost of analysis for benthic samples by having volunteer groups doing the sampling and sorting or the samples prior to shipping them to us. This allows us to offer pricing for Lowest Practical Taxon analysis (RBP III) for a price less than that for family level data, with all the QA/QC necessary to make the data useful state monitoring and enforcement programs. Done right, volunteers can get you a significantly better “Bang for the $”

Currently ES&C is offering special pricing on benthic work, primarily aimed specifically at volunteer monitoring groups. More information is located at ES&C is a certified HUBZone small business providing environmental consulting services to clients nationwide from offices in Virginia and Indiana.

Just my $0.02 and the corporate plug


Stuart R. Lynde
Environmental Services & Consulting, LLC
101 Professional Park Drive, Suite 303
Blacksburg, VA 24060

Phone: 540-552-0144
Fax: 540-552-1528