What are the key management benefits of SMC regional watershed monitoring?

The SMC’s Regional Watershed Monitoring Program provides a number of key benefits for participating agencies – as well as for the watershed management community as a whole.

Since its launch in 2009, the monitoring program has transformed how southern California watershed managers approach monitoring stream water quality. This new management paradigm has paved the way for SMC member agencies and other watershed managers to:

  • Place their stream condition data into a regional context: Because SMC data are comparable across the coastal southern California region, watershed managers are able to directly compare streams under their jurisdiction to streams in other areas of southern California. Being able to answer fundamental questions like “Is my stream in relatively good or bad condition compared to similar southern California streams?” helps managers to effectively allocate resources and set priorities that optimally protect and improve watershed health.
  • Achieve significant economies of scale: By pooling resources and contributing data to a single stream monitoring program, SMC member agencies and other partners individually contribute relatively little toward building expansive, scientifically robust data sets that enable them to get answers to ambitious regional management questions. The cost-leveraging ratio for SMC member agencies is about 40:1.
  • Take ownership of stream condition data from their jurisdiction: SMC regional monitoring enables every participating agency to generate its own data that feed into the program – instead of being required to relinquish that responsibility to a third-party entity. As a result, every participant takes ownership of the data from their jurisdiction. Meanwhile, every participant gets to help shape the data analysis and findings that flow from the data, further strengthening the sense of collective ownership that participants feel toward SMC data. 
  • Determine how to allocate their individual monitoring resources: Although SMC regional monitoring requirements are dictated by stormwater discharge permits, the specific design of this monitoring effort is developed through a collaborative, interactive SMC process. Specifically, the regulatory and regulated parties that come together through the SMC discuss in a neutral forum how to design each five-year cycle of SMC regional monitoring. This process gives each participating agency a direct say in how its own resources get allocated to support the SMC monitoring effort.
  • Engage in meaningful, consensus-building dialogue: The SMC’s assessments of southern California stream condition are based on the consensus of all participating agencies – both regulatory and regulated parties. Thus, all parties have an opportunity to meaningfully collaborate as they collect data that shed light on mutually shared management priorities and concerns, and work toward agreement on data analyses findings and management implications. For example, the SMC has been at the forefront of identifying the limits on biological condition in engineered channels and in developed watersheds.
  • Exert outsized influence in shaping statewide policy: The rich, high-quality regional data sets generated through SMC monitoring give southern California watershed managers a prominent voice in shaping statewide policy. Not only do SMC data sets get used extensively in building the scientific foundation for development of statewide stream policies, but the SMC itself is able to weigh in on policy development by speaking as one unified voice. Because the SMC represents all of the region’s major watershed management agencies – both regulated and regulatory – the SMC’s voice carries more weight at the statewide level than would any single member agency’s voice.