Inspiring aquatic monitoring: a review of innovative approaches to monitoring the aquatic environment

Karin Helwig, John Craft, Paul Teedon, Peter Barrie, Ole Pahl, Richard Allan

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Regulatory and management decisions made by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are based on evidence from a variety of sources, including environmental monitoring data. SEPA’s aquatic monitoring has evolved in response to changes in the environment, policy priorities and financial constraints. Previous strategic reviews have considered aquatic monitoring; however existing networks had a strong influence on the outputs of these. With the start of monitoring for the second cycle of the River Basin Management Plan in 2016, there is an opportunity thoroughly reflect on why and how SEPA monitors. To inform this, CREW commissioned an international review of monitoring networks, to identify and summarise innovative and radical approaches. The focus was on nation wide monitoring networks, ideally those with similar objectives to the WFD monitoring carried out in Scotland, the UK and across Europe.
The need for innovation appears greatest for investigative monitoring because traditional monitoring methods cannot always reveal why water bodies fail to reach quality standards.
In parallel to a literature review, we sought information from networks of contacts across the EU, supplemented by interviews with those leading monitoring strategy development and implementation. The approach was that of an invitation for interviewees to share experiences. It is recognised that the number of interviews is limited meaning that the list of monitoring activities identified is not exhaustive. The qualification of ‘innovative’ was largely left with the respondents. Certain areas, such as biological scoring systems, were mentioned by a few respondents but have not been covered in detail; this may be a topic area for further investigation. The focus of the project is on surface waters and to a lesser extent coastal and transitional waters; only one response about groundwater was received.
The information gathered from the interviews informed the design of a workshop, held at Glasgow Caledonian University’s offices in London. Here, representatives from eight countries including the USA came together to discuss innovative monitoring and exchange expertise. The outputs from the research activities (literature review, interviews and workshop) informed the detailed project report.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCentre of Expertise for Waters (CREW)
Commissioning bodyCentre of Expertise for Waters
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • aquatic monitoring
  • aquatic environment
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • SEPA
  • River Basin Management Plan 2016


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