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A Monitoring Overview

Contact: Gary Kohlhepp 517-284-5540

Environmental monitoring is an essential component of the DEQ's mission.  The DEQ recognizes that comprehensive water quality monitoring is necessary to improve natural resource management, maintain sustainable ecosystems, and protect public health.  Assessment of the environmental impacts of point and nonpoint source discharges, the latter being diverse and more difficult to measure, is critical.  Because bioaccumulative chemicals (e.g. dioxins, PCBs, mercury) can have serious impacts on aquatic systems when present at extremely low concentrations, monitoring techniques must be sophisticated and sensitive.  Therefore, water quality monitoring must effectively address changing environmental conditions and issues.

Because of a DEQ commitment to develop a monitoring plan, a report titled "A Strategic Environmental Quality Monitoring Program for Michigan's Surface Waters" (Strategy), was completed in January 1997.  This Strategy, prepared by the Surface Water Quality Division (SWQD) and the Land and Water Management Division (LWMD), describes the necessary monitoring activities for a comprehensive assessment of water quality in Michigan's surface waters.  The Strategy specifically identifies four monitoring goals:

  • Assess the current status and condition of waters of the state and determine whether water quality standards are being met;
  • Measure spatial and temporal water quality trends;
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of water quality prevention and protection programs; and
  • Identify new and emerging water quality problems.

In addition, the Strategy incorporates several key principles that are essential to effective monitoring.  These include:

  • Integrate and coordinate the use of scarce monitoring resources with other parties collecting water quality data;
  • Maximize the use of local units of government and citizen volunteers to monitor water quality;
  • Ensure that new and expanded monitoring activities are consistent with the DEQ's 5-year watershed permitting process;
  • Generate data that are scientifically defensible and relevant to the decision-making process;
  • Manage and report data in a way that is meaningful to intended audiences.

In November 1998, the citizens of Michigan approved the Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI), a $675 million bond to clean up, protect, and enhance Michigan's environmental quality, natural resources, and infrastructure.  Some of this money, specifically from the Clean Water Fund (CWF) portion of the CMI, were allocated for the implementation of the activities outlined in the Strategy, resulting in an increase of approximately $3 million per year for surface water quality monitoring.  In addition, recent technological advances (i.e. low-level analytical techniques for metals and organic chemicals) now make it possible to collect high-quality data at a reasonable cost.

The Strategy consists of nine interrelated elements: fish contaminants, water chemistry, sediment chemistry, biological integrity, wildlife contaminants, bathing beaches, inland lake quality and eutrophication, stream flow, and volunteer monitoring.

 

For more information about the Michigan DEQ's water quality monitoring activities, please contact Gary Kohlhepp at 517-284-5540, or kohlhepg@michigan.gov