How do you design a good monitoring program?

One of Urbaqua‘s resident Environmental Engineers, Halinka Lamparski, had the opportunity to present her ideas on just how to do this IN PERSON at the 2021 WA Inland Water Symposium held a couple of weeks ago (17th February 2021 @ Burswood on Swan).

The event was organised in partnership by the AWA, ECA and EIANZ (and luckily just managed to miss Perth’s week long lockdown). It was still a novel experience to attend a conference not via a Zoom/Skype/Microsoft Teams without sound/internet/general IT disruptions (apologies to the rest of the world, we’ve clearly had it easier than most!).

The theme of the event was around management of all inland waters (including groundwater (superficial and confined aquifers), and surface water such as rivers, lakes, floodplains, reservoirs, wetlands, inland saline systems and parts of waterways that have been artificially modified).

Key note speakers included Dr Rick Van Dam (no relation to Jean Claude) aquatic ecosystem and water quality expert – who spoke on the latest updates to the Australia and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (ANZG, 2018 – previously AMNZECC & ARMCANZ, 2000) – and Dr Rose Lines (TrEnD laboratory, Curtin University) – who presented on the benefits of using eDNA to undertake environmental assessments on the health of water bodies, in particular the aquatic fauna and biodiversity of water bodies.

(Source: South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council

After a fantastic Acknowledgement of Country by Ingrid Cummings (who really broke the ice by making everyone go outside and stand on the shores of the Derbarl Yerrigan to have us throw sand into the waters and let the Waugal know of our presence through our smell, and thus connect to Perth’s major inland water body. She’s also incredibly funny.) and keynote speaker presentations, Halinka gave her two cents worth on how to ‘Design purposeful water quality monitoring programs for urban inland waters‘.

Halinka emphasised the need to design a program with a management objective in mind as critical to making sure that useful data is collected, especially when resources are limited, in order to diagnose key water quality issues and be able to identify appropriate management solutions (a particular bugbear of Halinka’s).

This covered everything from:

  • selecting the right parameters (physical, nutrients and heavy metals);
  • frequency of monitoring (reactive versus scheduled);
  • monitoring of groundwater, subsoil discharge, and/or surface water; and
  • the influence of water level and flow.

Identifying key site characteristics was also highlighted as a critical part of the design process (consideration of groundwater and surface water connectivity, drainage systems (whether natural or man-made), systems as a sink or flow-through, construction (if man-made), historic and current landuse, catchment type, surface geology, and wildlife habitat).

Halinka’s presentation (rant?) ended on insisting that on the basis of results, water quality program management options should consider space, expense/difficulty, maintenance requirements, community perception, Aboriginal heritage implications, as well as the source of contamination. Post-installation monitoring of water quality management systems is also critical to allow an assessment of their cost-benefit to determine the usefulness of similar systems in the future.

Questions around the lack of inclusion of biological parameters (such as aquatic fauna) and management of groundwater quality indicated that some people were listening!

If anyone would like to engage Halinka in an animated discussion about how to improve monitoring in Perth over coffee, then feel free to get in touch with Urbaqua on:

Halinka relishes the chance to discuss such nerdy topics (and promises not to rant too much).

Halinka does actually climb in and out of drains to get water samples herself