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Water: Monitoring & Assessment

Chapter 1 Introduction

1.1 - Manual Organization

As part of its commitment to volunteer monitoring, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked since 1990 to develop a series of guidance manuals for volunteer programs. Volunteer Stream Monitoring: A Methods Manual, the third in the series, is designed as a companion document to Volunteer Water Monitoring: A Guide for State Managers. The guide describes the role of volunteer monitoring in state programs and discusses how managers can best organize, implement, and maintain volunteer programs. This document builds on the concepts discussed in the Guide for State Managers and applies them directly to streams and rivers.

Streams and rivers are monitored by more volunteer programs than any other waterbody type. According to the fourth edition of the National Directory of Volunteer Environmental Monitoring Programs (January 1994), three-quarters of the more than 500 programs listed conduct some sort of stream assessment as part, or all, of their monitoring project.

As the interest in monitoring streams grows, so too does the desire of groups to apply an integrated approach to the design and implementation of programs. More and more, volunteer monitors are interested in taking a combination of physical, chemical, and biological measurements and are beginning to understand how land uses in a watershed influence the health of its waterways. This document includes sections on conducting in-stream physical, chemical, and biological assessments as well as landuse or watershed assessments.

The chemical and physical measurements described in this document can be applied to rivers or streams of any size. However, the biological components (macroinvertebrates and habitat) should be applied only to "wadable" streams (i.e., where streams are small in width and relatively shallow in depth, and where both banks are clearly visible).

The purpose of this manual is not to mandate new methods or override methods currently being used by volunteer monitoring groups. Instead, it is intended to serve as a tool for program managers who want to launch a new stream monitoring program or enhance an existing program. Volunteer Stream Monitoring presents methods that have been adapted from those used successfully by existing volunteer programs.

Further, it would be impossible to provide monitoring methods that are uniformly applicable to all stream watersheds or all volunteer programs throughout the Nation. Factors such as geographic region, program goals and objectives, and program resources will all influence the specific methods used by each group. This manual therefore urges volunteer program coordinators to work handinhand with state and local water quality professionals or other potential data users in developing and implementing a volunteer monitoring program. Through this partnership, volunteer programs gain improved credibility and access to professional expertise and data; agencies gain credible data that can be used in water quality planning. Bridges between citizens and water resource managers are also the foundation for an active, educated, articulate, and effective constituency of environmental stewards. This foundation is an essential component in the management and preservation of our water resources.

EPA has developed two other methods manuals in this series. Volunteer Lake Monitoring: A Methods Manual was published in December 1991. Volunteer Estuary Monitoring: A Methods Manual was published in December 1993. To obtain any or all of these documents, contact:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds
Volunteer Monitoring (4503F)
401 M Street, SW
Washington, DC 20460

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