• sampling design;
  • strategies;
  • frequency;
  • water quality;
  • load;
  • streams

ABSTRACT: Various temporal sampling strategies are used to monitor water quality in small streams. To determine how various strategies influence the estimated water quality, frequently collected water quality data from eight small streams (14 to 110 km2) in Wisconsin were systematically subsampled to simulate typically used strategies. These subsets of data were then used to estimate mean, median, and maximum concentrations, and with continuous daily flows used to estimate annual loads (using the regression method) and volumetrically weighted mean concentrations. For each strategy, accuracy and precision in each summary statistic were evaluated by comparison with concentrations and loads of total phosphorus and suspended sediment estimated from all available data. The most effective sampling strategy depends on the statistic of interest and study duration. For mean and median concentrations, the most frequent fixed period sampling economically feasible is best. For maximum concentrations, any strategy with samples at or prior to peak flow is best. The best sampling strategy to estimate loads depends on the study duration. For one-year studies, fixed period monthly sampling supplemented with storm chasing was best, even though loads were overestimated by 25 to 50 percent. For two to three-year load studies and estimating volumetrically weighted mean concentrations, fixed period semimonthly sampling was best.