Development of a decision-making methodology to design a water quality monitoring network

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Environmental Monitoring and Assessment





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The number of water quality monitoring stations in the USA has decreased over the past few decades. Scarcity of observations can easily produce prediction uncertainty due to unreliable model calibration. An effective water quality monitoring network is important not only for model calibration and water quality prediction but also for resources management. Redundant or improperly located monitoring stations may cause increased monitoring costs without improvement to the understanding of water quality in watersheds. In this work, a decision-making methodology is proposed to design a water quality monitoring network by providing an adequate number of monitoring stations and their approximate locations at the eight-digit hydrologic unit codes (HUC8) scale. The proposed methodology is demonstrated for an example at the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB), where salinity is a serious concern. The level of monitoring redundancy or scarcity is defined by an index, station ratio (SR), which represents a monitoring density based on water quality load originated within a subbasin. By comparing the number of stations from a selected target SR with the available number of stations including the actual and the potential stations, the suggested number of stations in each subbasin was decided. If monitoring stations are primarily located in the low salinity loading subbasins, the average actual SR tends to increase, and vice versa. Results indicate that the spatial distribution of monitoring locations in 2011 is concentrated on low salinity loading subbasins, and therefore, additional monitoring is required for the high salinity loading subbasins. The proposed methodology shows that the SR is a simple and a practical indicator for monitoring density.

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