How Do I Develop a Monitoring Program?

Monitoring and Assessment

A monitoring and assessment program is defined as the establishment and operation of appropriate devices, methods, systems and procedures necessary to monitor, compile, and analyze data on the condition of wetlands in a state or tribe (adapted fromElements of a State Water Monitoring and Assessment Program, March 2003). Monitoring is the systematic observation and recording of current and changing conditions, while assessment is the use of that data to evaluate or appraise wetlands to support decision-making and planning processes.

Wetlands can be characterized both by their condition and functions. Wetland condition is the current state as compared to reference standards for physical, chemical, and biological characteristics, while functions represent the processes that characterize wetland ecosystems.

Goals and Benefits

Well-designed and executed wetland monitoring and assessment programs are a critical tool for states and tribes to better manage and protect wetland resources.

  • They allow states and tribes to establish a baseline in wetlands extent, condition and function, to detect change, to assess value, and to characterize trends over time.
  • Monitoring and assessment plays a foundational role in the other core elements of wetlands programs.
  • Regulatory programs rely on monitoring to detect whether unauthorized actions are occurring, evaluate alternatives to avoid and minimize impacts, determine whether permit holders comply with conditions in CWA Section 401 certifications or in Sections 402 or 404, or state and tribal permits, and evaluate the cumulative impacts of permitted actions. 
  • Monitoring and assessment can also inform planning and prioritization at both the individual wetland and watershed scales and is a tool to guide state or tribal decision-making. States and tribes can use monitoring and assessment data to determine if water quality standards are being met or to develop wetland-specific water quality standards. 
  • By integrating wetland monitoring data with information on other aquatic resources, monitoring and assessment strategies become an important bridge between wetlands and other water programs within a state or tribe.

EPA encourages states and tribes interested in comprehensive monitoring and assessment programs to pursue three objectives over time:

  1.  Develop a monitoring and assessment strategy consistent with Elements of a State Water Monitoring and Assessment Program for Wetlands (EPA, 2006) that states and tribes can use to manage wetlands according to their objectives;
  2. Implement a sustainable monitoring program consistent with the wetlands monitoring strategy;
  3. Incorporate monitoring data into agency decision-making.

For more information on Monitoring and Assessment.

Additional information about wetland bioassessment is found on the Bioassessment page.