Environmental monitoring networks are tools that, in addition to providing data and knowledge of a specific area (something very important), also allow us to make decisions with objective bases, evaluate these decisions and, therefore, improve the monitored environment.
These networks require the analysis of experts and stakeholders, who discuss the aspects that need to be measured and then how to measure it. In these stages where the project is formulated, the ideas of the network emerge with a clear objective; define strategic points that can become a viable, successful and high impact project (from the economic, social and sustainable point of view)
First of all, it is necessary to generate clear and balanced project requirements. Not too weak to not meet goals or oversized that it becomes an unsustainable project. As the saying goes, don’t place the candle so close to the saint that you burn it, or so far away that it can’t be seen.
There are several factors that can affect the compliance of a monitoring network, the most important to consider are the following:
Key factors to design acquire and maintain an environmental monitoring network in operation and get the most out of it
As a first step, the following questions should be asked:
- What is the objective? What does it take to measure? What are the places of interest for the measurement?
The objective of the measure must be clearly obtained, in which specific points it is necessary to measure and what results are expected, from this, blocks of work are derived and can be estimated with the following questions:
- What variables are necessary to monitor to meet this objective?
The variables that really need to be measured are defined, the projection for the near future. These variables must be evaluated in an important matrix in order to prioritize.
- What resolution, level of precision and quality is required for the measurement of the different variables?
Once you have clear the variables that are needed, the level of importance of this data and the quality that it requires, it is important to define the characteristics of the equipment that the network needs. This facilitates the selection of more accurate sensors and DataLoggers.
All this is necessary to obtain technology that is reliable and meets the requirements of measurement.
- What type of communication is needed to meet the objective? Are continuous data necessary or is it possible to obtain it in hours, days, etc.?
It is important to have the information at the right time; therefore, the transmission of data is one of the most important parts of the network. A good installation, the best sensors, the best operation and maintenance group, are aspects that are useless if the information does not arrive in time to be analyzed. For cases of early warnings, priority will be ensured.
Examples of technologies for downloading data: manual download, network points, GPRS, 3G, radio, satellite, etc. Each technology has significant associated costs; this must be evaluated to define the feasibility and permanence of the network.
- Who operates the network after being installed?
The personnel that operate the equipment must have a technical level and be trained in the operation and maintenance recommended by the manufacturer in order to guarantee the useful life of the equipment and reliability of the data.
There are several important factors to acquire and operate an environmental monitoring network in the correct way. The key is not to neglect any of these factors, because it can partially or totally affect the objectives of the project.
Be clear about the purpose of the network; define the most suitable sites for measurement, define correctly the sensors and equipment required, identify the transmission technology of each station and carry out a maintenance and calibration plan that guarantees the correct operation and reliability of the data.
In a forthcoming publication, all the factors will be deepened in order to identify in more detail the keys to the success of the monitoring networks.
Eng. Esp. PMP.
Cristian David Acevedo Lara