Application of statistical modeling to optimize a coastal water quality monitoring program

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Journal: Environ Monit Assess 2007/06/15
Published: 2008
Authors: Hunt, C. D.;Rust, S. W.;Sinnott, L.
Address: Battelle, 397 Washington Street, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA.

The long-term water quality monitoring program implemented by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in 1992 is extensive and has provide substantial understanding of the seasonality of the waters in both Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay and the response to improvements in effluent quality and offshore transfer of the effluent in September 2000. The monitoring program was designed with limited knowledge of spatial and temporal variability and long-term trends within the system. This led to an extensive spatial and temporal sampling program. The data through 2003 showed high correlation within physical parameters measured (e.g., salinity, dissolved oxygen) and in biological measures such as chlorophyll fluorescence. To address the potential sampling redundancies in the measurement program, an assessment of the impact of reduced levels of monitoring on the ability to make water quality decisions was completed. The optimization was conducted by applying statistical models that took into account whether there was evidence of a seasonal pattern in the data. The optimization used model survey average readings to identify temporal fixed effects, model survey-average-corrected individual station readings to identify spatial fixed effects, corrected the individual station readings for temporal and spatial fixed effects and derived a correlation model for the corrected data, and applied the correlation model to characterize the correlation of annual average readings from reduced monitoring programs with true parameter levels. Reductions in the number of sampling stations were found less detrimental to the quality of the data for annual decision-making than reductions in the number of surveys per year, although there is less of a difference in this regard for dissolved oxygen than there is for chlorophyll. The analysis led to recommendations for a substantially lower monitoring effort with minimal loss of information. The recommendation supported an annual budget savings of approximately $183,000. Most of the savings was from fewer surveys as approximately $21,000 came from the reduction in the number of stations monitored from 21 to 7 and associated laboratory analytical costs.

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