Published: 01 January 1978
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The broad objectives of water monitoring include the conservation of water quality and quantity to assure an adequate supply of water suitable in quality for both public and industrial uses and for the maintenance of fish and wildlife. Water monitoring is the continuous sampling, measurement, and analysis of the quantity and quality of various liquid streams. These streams may include waste-water streams or plant effluents; watercourses such as rivers, lakes, and estuaries; groundwater; recirculated streams such as cooling water; power plant streams such as boiler feedwater or condensate; or process effluents. Monitoring of public waters and waste waters protects the integrity of a sewer system, may prevent the upset of municipal waste treatment processes, especially biological processes, and preserves a safe public drinking supply and a healthful recreational environment. In addition to providing many of these same public safeguards, the monitoring of industrial processes provides for better products at reduced cost, improved process efficiency, and a lesser quantity of waste water that has to be treated or reclaimed. Monitoring is no longer a solely voluntary procedure. In the United States especially, monitoring is a legal requirement of a regulatory agency carried out to determine compliance with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, Public Law 92-500. Passage of the 1972 amendments authorized the establishment, under the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), of national programs for the prevention, reduction, and elimination of pollution—these to include establishing, equipping, and maintaining a water quality monitoring system for all waters. Owners and operators of any point sources are now required to establish and maintain records, to make reports, and to install, use, and maintain monitoring equipment and methods in such a manner as the EPA should provide. Under Public Law 92-500, point-source discharge into waters is prohibited unless the discharge is authorized by permit. A substantial monitoring program may be necessary to provide the information required by the permit. Such a monitoring system would also be able to provide data to answer inaccurate accusations of harmful or illegal waste-water discharges. Adequate monitoring records can document that a facility was operating in conformance with permit requirements during any particular period of time. Earlier methods of monitoring, which largely involved wet chemical procedures, have, in the past few years, been replaced by more reliable instrumental techniques which produce results rapidly and accurately. Since no operator is required, results are more objective, and accuracy can be checked easily by proper calibration with known standards. Not only are samples analyzed shortly after collection, but the interval between sampling and results is minimized. Samples no longer need to be transported to a laboratory for analysis, eliminating several sources of error. Since the use of preservatives is unnecessary, these variations are avoided. In general, on-line instrumental monitoring obviates the inconvenience, the inaccuracy, and the delay of laboratory procedures.