Environmental baseline monitoring and surveying involves the collection of data on the current state of the environment. It encompasses a broad range of parameters indicative of the environmental conditions of the hydrosphere (groundwater and surface water), atmosphere, geo-sphere, biosphere and human environment. Once data are collected they are analysed to determine baseline conditions; i.e. the current state of the environment. The data may also be used to determine trends over time e.g. seasonal fluctuations in groundwater level. The scope of environmental monitoring and assessment for a project will depend on the nature and scale of the proposed development and characteristics of the surrounding environment, but may include:
- Physical condition monitoring (air, water, soil);
- Habitats and species;
- Noise, vibration and traffic;
- Archaeology, landscape quality and the built environment; and
- Traffic and transport.
What is the benefit?
Providing robust data on baseline conditions provides the benchmark against which any changes can be defined. This is a critical stage in any project involving a new development, demolition or facility upgrading, as it quantifies the potential impacts on the environment, allowing alternative options to be compared and mitigation measures developed. Taking groundwater, for example, monitoring may include physical and chemical data to allow the interpretation of the importance of groundwater to an adjacent wetland. Any changes to local groundwater conditions as a result of a development may have a severe impact on the wetland. Mitigation measures may then be developed to ensure that the amount of water available to the wetland and the chemical conditions of that water are appropriate to ensure continued wetland viability.