General News: Tackling Water Pollution with Chemical Monitoring!

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Chemical monitoring

If this was any other spring season, thousands of volunteers would be monitoring water quality using Save Our Streams (SOS). Unfortunately, this is anything but an average spring. Coronavirus threatens the health of our families and friends, and we are all doing everything possible to fight back with social distancing. Most stream monitoring, which often involves small groups of people working closely together, has stopped as a result. For the health and safety of our communities, we all understand why that makes sense!

At the same time, pollution has not stopped for coronavirus. In fact, the most serious threat to clean water – polluted runoff from farms, backyards, and parking lots – continues unabated. So how do we protect public health from water pollution while maintaining social distancing to contain coronavirus? The answer: Save Our Streams chemical monitoring.

When League members and partners think of Save Our Streams, generally biological monitoring comes to mind. Testing water quality based on a sample of stream bugs has been the centerpiece of SOS for 50 years. This method is highly reliable and accurate, but it requires significant training, multiple people working closely together, and often a good deal of agility to scramble around in streambeds. Although our SOS program has included chemical monitoring for many years, it has received less attention. Now is the perfect time to change that!

Unlike Save Our Streams macroinvertebrate monitoring, chemical monitoring requires no special training. All the step-by-step instructions to perform the simple chemical tests are printed directly on the test kits. You do not need any prior monitoring experience or advanced science background to participate. Tests are available to measure nitrate, phosphate, pH, chloride, dissolved oxygen, transparency, and temperature.

Chemical monitoring can be done individually or with family members living in your house (if state or local social distancing guidelines allow). Another advantage of chemical monitoring is that it can be done from a bridge, so you don't have to scramble down steep banks or wade through water. All you’ll need for this option is a bucket or other container (like a milk jug with the top cut off) and a length of string or twine tied to the handle. Make sure to rinse your container out three times with water from the stream before doing your tests and perform the dissolved oxygen and temperature tests first.

Detailed instructions and data sheets to record your results in the field can be found at, and make sure to add your data to the publicly-accessible Clean Water Hub web site,

Chemical testing is a great opportunity to monitor stream health while being safe and responsible. The tests you conduct directly tie to common pollution issues that threaten our streams and drinking water supplies. While we battle one public health crisis by maintaining social distancing, we can keep up the fight to detect and address water pollution with chemical monitoring.

If you have questions about chemical monitoring, choosing a stream site, or entering your data into the Clean Water Hub, do not hesitate to contact IWLA Clean Water Program staff at

Get started with chemical monitoring

Share Your Chemical Monitoring Results on the Clean Water Hub – Quickly and Easily

  1. Create an account at You will need a valid email address to do so.
  2. Create a new stream site (this is how we will know where your monitoring data was collected). You will only have to do this once for each location.
  3. Add SOS chemical monitoring data for your site. The entry form will closely match the SOS chemical monitoring data sheet used in the field, so it will be very quick and easy! If you did not do a particular test, just leave the corresponding section blank in the Hub.
  4. Save your results and share them with your neighbors and community! Continually add data to the site so you can see how your stream health changes over time.
  5. Need help? Watch our how-to webinars.

Expanding Participation with Chemical Monitoring

When discussing chemical monitoring at the League’s 2020 Midwinter Board Meeting, Indiana Ike Jay Butler was excited. Because the monitoring could be done from a bridge and did not necessarily involve scrambling down stream banks, it was a type of monitoring he could now physically do. “You all put me back in the game!”  he exclaimed.

Since the Board meeting in February, Jay has really hit the ground running. He has assembled chemical monitoring kits, both for himself and for the Fort Wayne Chapter. He has spearheaded new coordination for monitoring with Indiana Ikes. Even more impressive, however, is the fact that he has almost singlehandedly monitored over 25 stream sites AND entered that data into the Clean Water Hub.

He has also established that this is a great activity to do solo, including during the coronavirus outbreak.

Keep up the great work, Jay!