Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring Program

Carl Glassford

Every stream deserves a stream steward….become a volunteer stream monitor today!

To join our team contact: Addie Schlussel, Stream Monitoring & AIS Coordinator


The Challenge

The Rock River Basin faces many challenges to maintaining water quality and quantity including extreme weather patterns and climate change, mounting pressure from urbanization, pollution from point and non-point sources, and threats posed by invasive species. Equally challenging have been efforts to involve the public in watershed management planning and project implementation. The Rock River Coalition believes that we all share responsibility and all have a role to play in meeting these challenges to clean water. Only by working collaboratively can we balance increasing societal demands on water with those of the environment.

Our Vision

The Rock River Coalition works to facilitate public engagement in watershed management through its volunteer stream monitoring program. Citizen participation is the cornerstone of the Rock River Coalition stream monitoring program.

Established in 2002, the RRC has trained over 200 volunteers to “test the waters” using easy-to-learn methods developed by the state-wide Water Action Volunteers Program (WAV), a collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the University of Wisconsin-Cooperative Extension (UWEX). Currently, the Rock River Coalition has over 80 volunteer stream monitors collecting water quality data throughout the Rock River Basin.

  • For our stream, the Rock River Coalition envisions a future in which every stream in the Basin has water quality data available for enhanced, science-based, decision-making.
  • For our volunteers, the Rock River Coalition is committed to the idea that volunteer stream monitors can play a critical role in the protection of clean water. Our vision is to create a network of stream stewards ensuring not only the collection of needed water quality data but also enabling volunteers to become advocates for sustainable watershed management.

Program Features

There are five central features to our stream monitoring program.

  1. Basin-Wide Perspective: What we do upstream impacts water quality downstream. The Rock River Coalition stream monitoring program is committed to building awareness and understanding of water quality issues using a basin-wide perspective.
  2. Collaboration: The Rock River Coalition works collaboratively with state and county governmental entities, academic institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and individuals to provide this critical opportunity for greater public participation in water quality management.
  3. Quality Assurance: The Rock River Coalition is committed to creating accurate water quality data and promoting the use of stream water quality data among all entities involved in the management of our streams and rivers in the Rock River Basin. The Rock River Coalition works closely with our volunteers to provide training and ongoing support. In addition, the Rock River Coalition volunteer stream monitoring coordinator also conducts side-by-side field quality assurance checks to maintain accuracy in data collection procedures.
  4. Public Access to Water Quality Data: Promoting clean water is a community endeavor. Therefore, our stream monitoring program is based on the philosophy that volunteer-collected data should be accessible to all citizens in the Rock River Basin and, indeed, across the state to enhance watershed management decision-making. All stream monitoring data is uploaded onto a state-wide databases that can be accessed and analyzed by all Wisconsin citizens. The database is maintained by the WDNR and is called Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System.
  5. Our streams: Most streams monitored in our program are wadeable streams. Working with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff and county land and water specialists, the Rock River Coalition has developed a list of streams waiting to be adopted by volunteers. In addition, the Rock River Coalition will work with volunteers who have additional stream sites which may not be on this list but are important to those individual volunteers. Our volunteer stream monitoring coordinator will help assess the suitability of all potential stream monitoring sites.

Learn more.  Please email us your inquiries.

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