Report No SR 97(08)F

Investigating the design of sampling programmes for standing waters: a scoping study

SR 97(08)F

April 1998


  1. Despite the fact that standing waters in both Scotland and Northern Ireland are recognised as a valuable resource that is worth protecting, no standardised sampling procedures have been adopted to assess their water quality. In recognition of this problem, this report was initiated with the objectives of firstly, identifying the range and extent of issues that need to be taken into account when designing sampling programmes for standing waters and secondly, to estimate costs and timetables for the completion of a full investigation of these identified issues.
  2. Consultation of the scientific literature and with the regulatory authorities in SNIFFER suggests that eutrophication and acidification are perceived to be the two main threats to maintaining water quality standards in Scotland and Northern Ireland. A review of current monitoring practices indicates that there is a wide variation in the determinands used, the frequency of sampling and the locations chosen to collect samples. Brief reference is made to European Community water legislation where it c ould influence future sampling programmes for standing waters in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  3. Sampling issues crucial to designing sampling programmes for standing waters are attended to in some detail, namely what, where and when to sample. A prioritised list of determinands (physical, chemical and biological) that the authors consider to be adequate for monitoring standing waters is given. The criteria for choosing the location and distribution of sample sites, for example, the advantages and disadvantages of shore based or open-water sampling are discussed. Biological/chemical factors, lake morphometry and financial considerations are all addressed in the context of deciding when and how often to sample.
  4. Two preliminary schematic decision tree diagrams are presented to aid the process of deciding what determinands should be measured and what sampling methods should be used. It is hoped that these schemes may prove useful as a model for testing in any future full study which investigates the design of sampling programmes for standing waters in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Another possible approach - involving the sampling of littoral macro-invertebrates - and a number of other basic water quality parameters are proposed.
  5. A discussion, highlighting sampling matters that need to be addressed in a full study on the design of sampling programmes, stresses the value of existing information and the present understanding of lake dynamics in saving valuable time and money wh en making decisions as to whether, when, where and what to sample. Estimates of the financial costs and timetables required for a full investigation are given. The authors consider that some 15k (excl. VAT) is necessary for the full study.
  6. A bibliography of literature relating to sampling issues is presented, although not all of the publications and reports listed are necessarily cited. An outline of the UK's Environmental Change Network (ECN) and the Acid Waters Monitoring Network (UKAWMN) is appended.


standing waters, water quality, monitoring, sampling design

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