Project Planning and Study Design

Three-Tiered Framework for Data Quality

The intended use of your data should determine how advanced your data collection methods should be. New Jersey has developed a new prescriptive framework for how community monitoring data can be used for regulatory purposes.

TIER 1
Informational Level

Acceptable Data Uses

  • Community Education
  • Municipal Engagement
  • Targeting Additional Advanced Monitoring

Data Quality Requirements

  • Study design documenting monitoring site information, methods, and timeframe

TIER 2
Targeting Level

Acceptable Data Uses

  • All Tier 1 Uses, plus:
  • Report Cards
  • BMP Effectiveness Assessment
  • BMP/Restoration Implementation Targeting
  • Targeting Additional Advanced Monitoring
  • NJDEP Regional Comprehensive Assessment

Data Quality Requirements

  • QAPP approved at Tier 2 by affected NJDEP Bureaus on file with NJ Watershed Watch Network
  • Use of standard field, lab, and analysis methods

TIER 3
Advanced Level

Acceptable Data Uses

  • All Tier 1 and 2 Uses
  • Regulatory Assessments of Water Quality Standards Attainment

Data Quality Requirements

  • QAPP approved at Tier 3 by NJDEP, EPA, or USGS
  • Water Chemistry: Use of NJDEP Certified Lab or OQA-certified “analyze-immediately” parameters for handheld and continuous meters
  • Macroinvertebrates: Use of NJDEP-approved sampling design

Tier 3 Macroinvertebrate Sampling Designs

TIER 3.1
Good

  • Americorps NJWAP sampling methods
  • Streamside organism identification to Order/Level
  • Volunteers must pass a 50-organism test with 90% success

TIER 3.2
Better

  • Sample preservation in the field
  • Volunteer organism identification to family level
  • Volunteers must pass a 50-organism test with 90% success

TIER 3.3
Best

  • Sample preservation in the field
  • Laboratory identification to genus level

Getting Started

You can collect water quality data for many different reasons using many different methods. It is important before you begin monitoring to ask yourself this basic question.

What do I want to accomplish with my monitoring program?

Establishing your objectives and end data uses and users up front will ensure that you are monitoring water quality to meet your goals – and not the other way around.

  1. Define your desired outcomes for your watershed
  2. Define your reason for monitoring and your intended data uses
  3. Develop research questions to refine your reason for monitoring
  4. Inventory the scope of project, geographically and informationally
  5. Identify the people involved in the project/program management and field/lab work
  6. Identify data users and their information needs
  7. Check your project budget, capacity, and opportunities to scale up or scale down depending on resource availability
  1. Define monitoring parameters
  2. Define project timeline and frequency of monitoring
  3. Identify target monitoring sites
  4. Identify Data Quality Objectives
  5. Manage raw data
  6. Identify monitoring personnel
  7. Check your project budget, capacity, and opportunities to scale up or scale down depending on resource availability
  1. What information products are needed by data users?
  2. How will you summarize and analyze data?
  3. How will you interpret data and offer recommendations and conclusions?
  4. How will information be communicated?
  5. How will data be managed to generate information?
  6. Who will manage, analyze, interpret, and communicate data?
  7. Check your project budget, capacity, and opportunities to scale up or scale down depending on resource availability
  1. How does the technical design answer your monitoring questions?
  2. Is the plan effective? Are you able to accomplish what you need to?
  3. How will you capture, document, and share your project success?
  4. Document and communicate your study design!

For assistance with establishing a new monitoring program, contact Erin Stretz, NJ Watershed Watch Network Coordinator, to schedule a one-on-one meeting to tailor your monitoring study to your goals and level of resources. 

Monitoring Design Elements that Produce Measurable Results

Recorded Webinar from Water Data Collaborative

The Water Data Collaborative hosted a webinar to introduce study design for water quality monitoring programs in a targeted and methodical way. Helpful for both monitoring beginners and seasoned professionals, it is worth setting aside a little over an hour to familiarize yourself with these concepts.

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