Norway has a land area of 324,000 km2 and a population of 4.3 million (1993). The surface waters are an important part of the Norwegian landscape. Most of the largest rivers and catchment areas are situated in the south-east of the country, but there are lot of small rivers along the coast. The four largest Norwegian river systems are covering about a quarter of the Norwegian territory. Norway has a total of 455,000 lakes, the lakes covering an area that is about 5 per cent of the land area. Six Norwegian lakes have a surface area greater than 100 km2. The Norwegian coast is about 2,650 km long; including the vast number of fjords, bays, and islands the total coastline is almost 34,000 km long. Some of the fjords are very long (>100 km) and deep. The main ocean areas are the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea.

Involved institutions and coordination of monitoring

The Ministry of Environment is responsible for reporting state and trends of environmental problems in Norway to the Parliament. The Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) and Directorate for Nature Management (DN) are two directorates under the Ministry of Environment. SFT is responsible for the National Pollution Monitoring Programme, the main part of which concerns monitoring of freshwater and the marine environment. In addition to the monitoring activities mentioned above, DN is managing monitoring activities concerning nature management, including monitoring of the aquatic environment.

SFT's most important consultant regarding water quality monitoring is the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA). The consultants are responsible for taking the samples, making the analyses and storing the data. NIVA is reporting the data and information from separate programmes to SFT. SFT and DN report in turn aggregated data to the Ministry of Environment and to the public.

Monitoring of water quality at national and county levels is coordinated. In transboundary rivers between Norway and Finland, Russia, and Sweden, respectively, the water quality monitoring is to some extent coordinated.

Quality assurance and standards

In international programmes (PARCOM, ECE, etc.) standards and manuals agreed upon are followed. SFT in general demands that all consultants must be accredited according to EN 45000 standards for sampling and analysis.

Norway has reported information on 10 river monitoring programmes, six lake monitoring programmes, three inland water monitoring programmes and eight monitoring programmes focused at coastal and marine areas (Table 3.11).

Rivers and streams

The Norwegian river monitoring programmes can be described by their main purposes and their network of sampling sites. The objectives of the R1 programme is to monitor the riverine inputs into Norwegian coastal waters. The network consists of sampling sites downstream the 10 largest Norwegian rivers, in general including monthly sampling of suspended matter, nutrients and heavy metals. The R2, R8, R13, L4/R9 and L8/R11 monitoring programmes focus on acidification of rivers and streams and the programmes R10 and L9/R12 consider the effects of liming in response to acidification. The R2 programme is to provide long-term data revealing trends in acidification, and the network is based on sampling sites in 20 rivers in southern Norway. The R8 programme consists of intensive studies in five small river catchments. The L4/R9 programme determine the status of acidification and heavy metal pollution in the Norwegian-Russian border area. The R13 programme employs macroinvertebrate indicator species in assessment of acidification effects and L8/R11 monitors the response to acidification at the fish communities level.

The R3-R7 river monitoring programmes focus on monitoring of specific river systems and the major environmental state related to these systems (eg. pollution from paper industry in the river Otra, nutrients and organic carbon in the largest Norwegian river the Glomma, heavy metals from mining in the river Gaula and the river Orkla).

Table 3.11: National surface water monitoring programmes in Norway.

No. Name Responsible institution Variables Period of operation &

Sampling Frequency (SF)



Data &


Rivers and streams
R1 Long-term monitoring of direct & riverine inputs to Norwegian coastal waters NIVA chemical variables since 1990
SF: 1/month, 8 rivers
4/yr, 2 rivers
one station in 10 rivers Database & annual report; NIVA
R2 Monitoring of 20 rivers in East, South & Western Norway NIVA physical & chemical variables since 1980
SF: weekly-monthly
20 rivers Database & annual report; NIVA
R3-R6 Monitoring of
3. River Otra
4. River Glomma, Hedmark
5. River Gaula
6. River Orkla
NIVA 3,5, & 6: chemical & biological variables
4: water chemistry
3: since 1980, SF: monthly;
4: since 1978,
SF: 2/month;
5: since 1986,
SF: 1-2/month;
6: since 1980
SF: 1/month
3: 6 sites in main river
4: 3 sites in main river
5: 6 sites in main river,
6 sites in tributaries,
6: 2 sites in main river,
2 sites in tributaries
Database & annual report; NIVA
R7 Periphyton studies in the catchment area NIVA periphyton since 1986
SF: 2-3/yr
4 main & 3 additional stations Local database. Annual report; NVE, SFT, DN
R8 Transport & dynamics of acid compounds in
calibrated catchments
NIVA physical & chemical variables, precipitation since 1973
SF: weekly
5 calibrated catchments
Database & annual report; NIVA


Monitoring of invertebrates in Norway LFI INVERT, species list,
acidification index
since 1981
SF: 2/yr
15-20 stations in 8 river systems Database & annual report: LFI
Lakes and reservoirs
L1 National survey on
eutrophication in 355 Norwegian lakes
NIVA chemical & biological variables 1988-1998
SF: 4/yr May-Sep
404 lakes
database & annual report; NIVA
L2 1000-lake survey NIVA chemical & biological variables since 1986
SF: yearly
yearly 100 lakes, 1005 lakes app. every 10 yr database & annual report; NIVA
L3 Monitoring of Lake
Mjøsa & its tributaries
NIVA physical, chemical & biological variables since 1971
SF: 2/month
4 stations in lake,
6 in tributaries
database & annual report; NIVA
L4/R9 Monitoring of acidification & heavy metals in surface waters in the Norwegian-Russian border areas NIVA chemical & biological variables since 1986
SF: lakes; 1-2/yr
rivers; weekly-monthly
40-50 sampling points in each country database & annual report; NIVA
L5 National survey on heavy metals in lake sediments and mercury in fish NIVA Metals in water and sediment, HG in fish since 1986

SF: once


210 lakes

Database & report: NIVA



Monitoring of effects of acidification on fish stock in Norwegian inland waters (lakes and rivers) NINA Fish: species composition and abundance since 1980
SF: Streams: 1/yr
Lakes: 1/2-5 yrs
140 stream stations, 100 lake stations
Database & report: NINA



Monitoring of liming projects in Norway DN Chemical and biological variables Start one year prior to liming. SF variable 12 liming projects, varying number of stations per project Annual report: DN
Coastal and marine areas
M1 Trend monitoring of the Norwegian coastal areas NIVA physical, chemical & biological variables 1990-1999
SF: twice a month
30 stations, Southern Norway Database & annual report; NIVA
M2 Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) NIVA organic & inorganic contaminants since 1981
SF: annually
National coastal regions
115 stations
Database; local & ICES
Report; NIVA
M3 Arctic monitoring & assessment programme IMR fish & sed: pesticides 137Cs, heavy metals  

since 1991

SF: 1/yr

227 stations in Barents Sea & northern fjords Database; AMAP
Report; IMR
M4 Marine investigations along the west coast of Novaja Zemlya (AMAP) Akvaplan-NIVA A/S POC, heavy metals, sedimentation rates since 1994
SF: 1/yr
30 stations, west coast & fjords of Novaja Zemlya Database; AMAP
Report; Akvaplan-NIVA A/S
M5-M8 Monitoring of 5. Grenlandsfjords, Telemark
6. Ranfjorden
7. Sørfjord & Hardangerfjord
NIVA 5.contaminants in biota, phyto-/zooben, invert
6. hydrography, contaminants, invert., fish
7. chemical variables in water, mussels, seaweed, fish & sediment
8. contaminants in sediment/biota, phys/chem and biol. variables
5: since 1975
SF: every 1-5 years
6: since 1975
SF:max 2 subseq. yr
7: since 1979
SF: water; 6/yr,
biota; 1/yr
sediment; 1/5 yr
8: since 1989
SF: water: 4-8/yr
biota: 1/1-5 yr
sediment: 1/1-5yr
5: Grenland fjords, coast of Telemark
6: 26 sediment stations
21 biota stations
7: 150 km from the source of pollution in the fjords
8: Glomma estuary Water: 9 stations
20 stations
Sed. traps: 40 stations
Biology: 51 stations
Poll. in biota: 11 stat.
Database & reporting; NIVA

NIVA: Norwegian Institute of Water Research; NINA: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research; LFI: Laboratory for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries; SFT: Norwegian State Pollution Control Authority; NVE: Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Administration; DN: Directorate for Nature Management; IMR: Institute of Marine Research; ICES: International Council for the Exploration of the Sea; AMAP: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme


The national lake survey, L1, is mainly focused on eutrophication of lakes and the objectives are to establish a regional overview on distribution of and temporal changes in eutrophication in Norwegian lakes. The survey network includes 404 lakes that are studied every 3 to 4 years: four samples are taken in each year of study and the abundance of nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish is measured. The L2 survey focuses on lake acidification. A nation-wide status based on sampling of 1,000 lakes is made every 10 years, the last time in 1986, and a selection of 100 lakes is used for trend analysis (yearly sampling). The water samples are analyzed for general physical and chemical indicators of acidification, and additionally bottom fauna and fish are studied. The L3 programme concerns monitoring of lake Mjøsa, the largest Norwegian lake, with special focus on eutrophication. The purpose of the L5 programme is to determine the state of pollution by heavy metals in sediment and fish in 210 Norwegian lakes. One survey has been carried out during the period 1986-1988.

Marine areas

The objectives of the M1 monitoring programme are to assess the state of eutrophication of coastal areas in southern Norway, while the M2 monitoring programme focuses on heavy metals and organic pollutants in the main Norwegian fjords. The M3 and M4 monitoring programmes are part of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) and involve monitoring and assessment of the levels of AMAP-relevant contaminants (heavy metals, organic micropollutants and radionuclides).

The fjord monitoring programmes, M5-M8, focus on monitoring of specific fjords and the major environmental problems related to these systems (eg. heavy metals, nutrients, organic micropollutants, etc.).


Geographic coverage


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Filed under: surface water
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