Obligatory monitoring of surface waters
After the implementation of the Water Act in 1962 Finland started monitoring wastewater discharges and their impacts on surface waters. In addition, those parties responsible for regulating water levels, dredging and flood protection operations, fish farms and peat mines are required to monitor impacts of their activities on waters.
In the year 2000 the environmental legislation was renewed to fulfil the demands of the European Union directive on integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC directive). The "polluter pays principle" is important in obligatory monitoring: the polluters pay all the monitoring costs. The Ministry of the Environment supervises the monitoring system. The Ministry provides general guidelines and advice to polluters, consulting laboratories and others in the environmental administration and carries out joint negotiations with them in order to harmonize the monitoring methods and practices.
About 5000 monitoring points
There are some 1700 permit holders who are required to do surface water monitoring. The water quality observation network consists of about 5000 monitoring points in rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
The permit holder must present a monitoring plan to the relevant Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. The authority checks the plan, and if necessary, makes alterations to it. Monitoring programmes are designed on a case-by-case basis. This means that for each programme the hydrology and current state of the ambient waters and the quantity and quality of the discharges must be taken into consideration. Polluters situated in the same area have often organized their ambient surface water monitoring as a joint programme. This saves costs and often allows for fewer samples to be taken.
About 900 obligatory monitoring programmes
Finland has about 900 obligatory monitoring programmes, of which more than 100 are joint programmes.
Obligatory monitoring may include, for example, measurements of water quality, hydrology or biological parameters. Water quality is monitored regularly in almost all programmes. Especially in the spatially large joint programmes, biological parameters, such as phytoplankton, profundal benthic invertebrates and macrophytes, are also included. Fish and fishery monitoring is performed under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
In water quality monitoring, oxygen conditions, nutrient levels, pH, conductivity, suspended solids, water colour and hygienic indicator bacteria are measured regularly. In relevant cases, heavy metals and organic pollutants in water, biota or sediments are also monitored. The frequency of water quality monitoring varies from two to twenty times per year. Biological parameters are monitored usually once in a three-year period.
Most of the laboratories providing services for the obligatory pollution control monitoring programmes have had their chemical methods accredited and have participated in interlaboratory comparisons.
The data from the obligatory monitoring programmes are recorded in databases of the environmental administration. In addition, annual reports are prepared in which the data from individual monitoring programmes are analysed and summarized. Researchers and the public have free access to the reports and the data.
The obligatory monitoring of surface waters will be a basis for meeting the requirements of operational monitoring of the EU's Water Framework Directive. The directive demands operational monitoring programmes to be established for waters, which are at risk of failing to meet the objective of good status.