Resources for Monitors

Spend your time hunting for macros, not for monitoring resources. Everything you need to successfully survey for stream life is right here.

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Helpful Hints

Things to know before you go

How to Choose a Site

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!

Local Impact

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.

Finding Your Latitude and Longitude

After you choose a site, you will need to know your site's exact location so you can report it on your monitoring datasheets. This quick guide shows how to find your latitude and longitude on an iPhone, an Android, or a computer.

Know Your Macros

Resources for identifying stream bugs

How to ID Macros: New to macroinvertebrate ID? Check out this quick guide to get you started.

Guide to Aquatic Macroinvertebrates: The Basics: This handy reference guide makes it easy to identify bugs as you find them.

Key to Stream Macroinvertebrates: This one-pager walks you through identifying bugs in your creek with detailed illustrations and tips like looking at the number of legs and tails.

Macroinvertebrates Scale Chart: A one-page key that gives users a general idea of what size to expect for each macroinvertebrate.

Macroinvertebrate Pollution Sensitivities: A handy chart for identifying macros and sorting them by their tolerance of impairment.

Creek Critters: This app helps you solve bug ID mysteries with a few simple questions, clear line drawings and photos.

  • Created for beginning and intermediate water quality monitors.
  • Easy-to-use, step-by-step identification of the most common macroinvertebrates found in freshwater streams throughout the United States.
  • Accurate descriptions, line drawings, and photographs illustrate each aquatic insect and crustacean.
  • Simple, clear navigation.
  • Free! We make it easy to explore local streams and monitor water quality in your neighborhood.

Data Forms and Instructions

Everything you need to collect and report your data

How-To Videos

A quick-start guide to using the Clean Water Hub

Introducing the Clean Water Hub

Adding Your Stream Site to the Clean Water Hub

Adding Your Chemical Data to the Clean Water Hub

Adding Your Biological Data to the Clean Water Hub

Clean Water Hub FAQs

Advocacy Guide

Do something with your data

The Save Our Streams Advocacy Guide shows you how to take action at the local, state or federal level to protect the waterways you monitor. You'll find valuable tips and advice on how to organize your community, influence policymakers and create positive change for your streams. Plus, read inspiring success stories from fellow monitors and other League members.

Download the advocacy guide.