Decision makers (e.g. site owners, regulators) face increased pressure to evaluate and, if necessary, reduce environmental risks and those risks posed by groundwater contamination are no exception. The resultant decisions are likely to reflect expectations from increasingly diverse stakeholders, including community members, that drive continued improvement in the quality, quantity, and availability of data required to characterize groundwater contamination.
This context has favored the use and development of so-called advanced site characterization techniques, which are often seen as a technological accelerator to meet the demand of higher quality data. However, there is a large diversity of technologies available, which can also be subject to a pronounced advertising or marketing focus. Although there is sound guidance on how to apply many of these techniques, there is arguably limited direction on how their implementation can result in practical outcomes that clearly support decisions regarding further investigation, monitoring, and remediation.
The possible lack of clarity regarding practical outcomes may result from a tendency to group techniques according to their operability rather than the expected outcome that they should achieve. Hence, this paper proposes to start the discussion on a different classification of these techniques in a manner that is focused more clearly on outcomes and which: (1) Assists decision-makers in better selecting and designing data collection programs and (2) Guides further technique development.