Choosing a new monitoring site can seem daunting, even to an experienced monitor. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a site. Read on to find tips and hints for identifying potential streams, finding access points, and getting started at a new site!
What streams need to be monitored? If you’re a brand-new monitor, it might be best to start at a stream or creek you’re already familiar with – one that runs through your backyard, or you walk by every day. You might already know what potential pollution sources might exist upstream, or of a planned development nearby. What are the current and potential future impacts to the health of your stream?
If you don’t have a stream nearby, or aren’t familiar with the waterways in your area, pull out a map! You can use printed or online maps to see where local streams and creeks are in your area, as well as public access points. Visit a few of these sites in person to see which may be best to monitor.
Who’s in the Area
Talk to local IWLA chapters, watershed groups, conservation associations, or wildlife associations to find out if they are monitoring streams, or would be interested in having you monitor. Reach out to your local Soil and Water Conservation District. Do they have a stream on their property? Do they know of a potential water quality issue?
You can also view currently monitored sites to see if there are streams near you that are not being sampled.
The most important factor in choosing a stream site is safety. The stream should not normally flow above your knees – if there has been heavy rain or flooding, don’t monitor until the water level returns to normal. You should be able to easily access the water, without climbing down steep, eroded banks or scrambling over rocks. Remember, you will need to bring your monitoring kit with you, which may require two hands to carry. If you can’t walk to your site, be sure there is safe, adequate, and legal parking nearby.
Permission & Permits
Monitoring sites must be on public land, unless you have received permission from a private landowner. Check with your local town or city government to confirm accessibility of a site if you are unsure.
All SOS monitors are given a copy of the sampling permit for their area. Monitors must carry this permit every time they monitor.
Where to Sample
When you’ve identified a potential monitoring site, you need to find the best area to sample for macroinvertebrates. If you are sampling using the Rocky Bottom Method, look for riffles in the stream, where flowing water forms small white-caps over cobbles and stones. In the Muddy Bottom Method, choose a section of stream that includes a variety of the four sampled habitat types.