Water Quality – 15 B. Vital Signs Scoping

Klamath Network Water Quality Report (Phase II)

Section 5: Network-Wide Scoping, Identification, and Prioritization of Vital Signs for Aquatic Resource Monitoring


B. Vital Signs Scoping

The Klamath Network began its vital signs monitoring scoping process in 1998. A detailed account of the process and key findings were reported in Sarr et al. (2004).

Initial park-specific Vital Signs Workshops were held between 1998 and 2003 to begin to identify stressors that potentially impact park unit ecosystems. These workshops were followed in 2004 by three network-wide workshops: (1) Marine (January 27-28); (2) Geology/Soils (March 1-4); and (3) Level 1 and 2 Categories of the National Vital Signs Framework (May 4-6). The purpose of these workshops was to identify general monitoring questions and broad-scale vital signs associated with specific ecosystems and categories (see Sarr et al. 2004, Appendix G, pages 4-17 including Table 1, pages 16-17, for a complete list of National Vital Signs Framework Categories). Detailed results of the May 4-6 workshop specific to Klamath Network park units can be reviewed in Sarr et al. 2004, Appendix G, Tables 2-7, pages 18-46.

General Water Quality Vital Signs Identified during the May 2004 Scoping Process

The dominant theme during the initial identification of network-wide general water quality vital signs was aquatic ecosystem health. The ability to (1) document improvement (or lack thereof) in the water quality of Clean Water Act section 303(d) listed streams, and (2) the ability of park unit managers to document progress toward achieving GPRA goal 1.a4 (i.e., that park units have unimpaired water quality) underscored the importance of identifying a suite of vital signs useful for effective water quality assessment. The need to fully inventory aquatic resources and document baseline and reference water quality conditions also were identified as important objectives in the development of a vital signs-based long-term water quality monitoring program. The vital signs initially identified included:

  • Watershed budgets: A watershed budget is one method for monitoring water quality. It is an accounting of the inputs and outputs of water, nutrients, sediments, and chemicals passing through a particular watershed; and budgets vary considerably among watersheds. Typical monitored parameters include the concentration of major ions and isotopes, stream flow, groundwater hydrology, and continuous water temperature.
  • Continuous water temperature measurement: Water temperature can be a useful indicator of the status and trends of aquatic ecosystems. Change in water temperature can be indicative of ecosystem impact due to climate change or other anthropogenic-derived perturbations. However, the intermittent monitoring of temperature can be problematic due to the significant temporal variation of temperature. Use of continuous recording devices is a preferred means of eliminating time-associated sampling variation.