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The “data-rich but information-poor” syndrome in water quality monitoring

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Water quality monitoring conducted routinely over time at fixed sites has been a part of most water quality management efforts for many years. It has been assumed that such monitoring plays a major role in management. However, the lack of routine data analysis, and reporting of information derived from such analysis, points up the fact that the exact nature of the role of routine, fixed-station monitoring is poorly defined.

There is a need to very clearly define this role in the design of such systems if routine monitoring is to efficiently and effectively meet the information expectations placed on it. Design of routine monitoring systems will therefore have to consider not only the where, what, and when of sampling, but also why. A framework for including the “why” of monitoring in the design process is proposed and experience with using the framework in New Zealand is discussed.

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Ward, R.C., Loftis, J.C. & McBride, G.B. The “data-rich but information-poor” syndrome in water quality monitoring. Environmental Management 10, 291–297 (1986).

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