Water quality monitoring
The role of water quality monitoring in addressing environmental questions is increasing. This is reflected, for example, in the policy of the European Union, where numerous directives relating to the environment have been put into practice. Currently, the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) and particularly the design of the monitoring programmes it requires are topical.
What is monitoring?
In water quality monitoring, water samples are regularly taken from the same sampling sites and analysed for various water quality parameters such as physical and chemical parameters (e.g. nutrients) or biological parameters (e.g. phytoplankton biomass). Standardised methods are used so that the results are comparable. Accumulated data is stored, analysed and reported. In addition to traditional sampling, other methods such as remote sensing can be used.
Water quality monitoring is carried out for various reasons such as:
- Identification of the state and trends in water quality
- Determination of loads (mass flows)
- Classification of surface waters
- Testing of compliance with norms or permits
- For early warning of pollution
Milestones of monitoring
In Finland national water inventories started in the 1960s (those of rivers in 1962, lakes in 1965 and biological monitoring in 1963). After the implementation of the Water Act in 1962 the local pollution control monitoring network based on the "polluter pays" principle was created and has been in operation ever since. Other monitoring programmes are those for harmful substances (started in the 1960s), groundwater (since 1975), air quality (since 1983) and wastes (started in the 1980s).
Additional monitoring activities are monitoring of transboundary waters and monitoring of the water quality of large rivers (EEC/77/795). Finland also takes part in other monitoring activities such as cooperation between the Nordic Countries, in the Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS), cooperation under HELCOM and the design of more recent monitoring networks (e.g. Eurowaternet, WFD).
The Finnish Environment Institute participates in the work of EIONET (European Environment Information and Observation Network) – a collaborative network of the European Environment Agency and its member states supporting the collection and organization of data.
The cumulative database of the Finnish Environment Institute contained water quality data mainly from 1960s. Special emphasis is paid to quality control of the produced data, for example, by using certified personnel for sampling and standardised chemical analytical methods.
Databases are available to the public by Internet (Oiva-palvelu).
The data are used in scientific publications and the reports required by the EU Directives and delivered to the international community (e.g. European Environment Agency). In addition, the data are used for environmental permits. Environmental data is delivered to the European Environment Agency using the EIONET- network.
Inland waters and coastal waters
Monitoring programmes of environmental authorities are carried out in cooperation with the Finnish Environment Institute and ELY-centres (Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment).
Local pollution control monitoring is required under the national environ-mental legislation and is paid for by polluters. The impacts of municipal and industrial waste waters and other environmental pressures are monitored regularly. Monitoring plans are designed individually for each polluter and approved by the Environmental Authorities.
Baltic Sea and coastal waters
The Finnish Environment Institute monitors chemical and biological properties of the open Baltic Sea.
The current groundwater monitoring network maintained by the Environmental Administration consists of stations located in unpolluted areas representing variable conditions and provides basic geohydrological information and data on the background concentrations of Finnish groundwater. The monitoring network will be completed to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive.
EIONET - Eurowaternet
National Eurowaternet monitoring networks, which have been launched in all EU countries, together form the Eurowaternet monitoring network that produces an overall picture of European water quality. Such networks have been designed for inland waters, coastal waters and groundwaters.
The Finnish Eurowaternet monitoring network for rivers and lakes has been in operation since 2000. The network provides a representative picture of the quality of Finnish inland waters. From 2006, the network has been developed to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. Consequently the Eurowatenet network will be replaced by the WFD network and EIONET network.
Monitoring required by the EU Water Frame-work Directive (WFD)
The WFD is an important tool of water legislation. It will help to achieve sustainable management of water in the EU member states for many years to come. It requires that all inland and coastal waters within defined river basin districts must reach at least a good ecological state by 2015. The Directive places special emphasis on the ecological quality of waters.
Under the WFD new monitoring and classification systems have developed. There are three types of monitoring required:
- Surveillance monitoring – to validate the characterisation of pressure and impact assessments and to detect long-term trends.
- Operational monitoring – to help classify those water bodies which are at risk of failing to meet ‘good ecological status’.
- Investigative monitoring – to ascertain the cause and effects or a failure to meet ‘good ecological status’ where it is not clear.
National water quality monitoring programmes have been updated according to the requirements of the WFD. Particularly, monitoring programmes of rivers and lakes have been developed by increasing the number of biological variables such as phytoplankton, benthic invertebrate fauna, macrophytes and fish.
The operational satellite-based water quality products of the Finnish Environment Institute are surface water temperatures of the Baltic Sea and large lakes in Finland, and surface algal blooms and turbidity of the northern Bal-tic Sea. Chlorophyll a concentrations in Finnish coastal waters will be avail-able as a new product.
Satellite images have been used in the monitoring of snow melt since 1999. At the Finnish Environment Institute, remote sensing of snow is related to the Institute's nationwide hydrological monitoring and forecasting; its major task is to provide information for hydrological forecasting for improving forecasts.
Techniques of remote sensing applicable to monitoring are being developed.
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