August 7-14, 2006

CCME water quality monitoring framework seeks greater consistency, co-ordination

The Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) has released a Canada-Wide Framework for Water Quality Monitoring. The document aims to promote better co-ordination and more consistent approaches to water quality monitoring across the country by providing a guide to help jurisdictions develop and implement water quality monitoring programs.

The new framework follows from a CCME experts workshop in October 2002, which examined the current state of water quality monitoring networks in Canada. While the review found a number of challenges and gaps to be addressed, it also singled out several strengths that could be built upon.

The framework recommends high-level, nationally consistent guidance in establishing the purpose of monitoring, program design, site selection, data management, interpretation and reporting. It also calls for greater co-ordination among jurisdictions in developing tools that could support a Canada-wide network of monitoring sites of national, regional and local relevance.

Sites of national interest, notes the document, would offer opportunities for co-operation on core sets of variables and/or criteria for selecting key variables of most relevance to the site, water use and issue. The resulting data could then be made available to all interested parties.

As one of the steps for advancing the framework, the CCME recommends that criteria be defined for selecting sites to be part of a national water quality monitoring network. The establishment of such a network (or networks), it says, should be multi-faceted to reflect various water body types, representative sampling locations across the country, and representative samples of sites affected and not affected by human activities.

The framework proposes that the CCME's water quality monitoring sub-group (part of its water quality task group) be designated to as a lead resource body for this criteria definition project. This sub-group, it adds, should also take the lead in drafting technical documents, detailing each element of water quality monitoring, to accompany the framework. For some of these elements, individual jurisdictions may already have documents that could be used or expanded upon in a Canada-wide context.

A Canada-wide Framework for Water Quality Monitoring may be viewed on the CCME Web site, www.ccme.ca.

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