Become a Volunteer Stream Monitor!

Are you interested in becoming a volunteer stream monitor? We are seeking people who are interested in monitoring a wadable (usually knee to thigh deep) stream site in their area to assess its quality once a month between spring and fall. Each site visit will take about one-half to one hour to complete.

Project Background: Since 1997 people in Wisconsin have been monitoring streams across the state through the Water Action Volunteers program. These citizens assess six aspects of stream health including water temperature, clarity, and dissolved oxygen content. They also measure the volume of water flowing in the stream, and assess habitat quality for fish, aquatic insects and other stream life. Finally, they assess water quality based on which aquatic insects and invertebrates are present in the stream.

Volunteer monitors enter their data into an online database so that it’s accessible to anyone interested in learning about the quality of water in that stream. Data are used to understand how clean the water is at the site over time and to identify immediate water quality concerns. Local groups have also used the information to prioritize where restorations should occur, to alert others about manure spills, to identify sites where more in depth study is needed, and to educate community members about the health of a local stream. 

Participants will be provided with all equipment needed to conduct the monitoring either at the training session or it will be available to be borrowed from a local project host. Training is generally provided free of charge. Most trainings take place on Saturdays in spring. See the events schedule for dates and locations.

Participants will also have the opportunity to do more intensive monitoring in the future if they enjoy the type of work they’ll do in this program. >>Learn more about Level 2 and Level 3 monitoring projects that are available for experienced stream monitors.

Volunteer Monitor Responsibilities: Volunteers who participate in volunteer stream monitoring through the WAV program must:

  • Attend a 5-6 hour training session usually held on a Saturday in spring (for schedule of upcoming trainings see:
  • Sample at least one location of their choice on a monthly basis following the training and until October (with the option of continuing in the following year and beyond if desired)
  • Enter the data collected to the WAV online database after each site visit (or mailing the completed data sheet to the local coordinator so that the data can be entered to the online database)
  • Return equipment to the local coordinator if they opt to stop participating in the WAV program

Volunteer qualifications:

  • No science background is needed, training will be provided to those who are interested and able to meet the defined responsibilities
  • Ability to walk along river banks and enter the water to access a monitoring site
  • Enjoyment of the outdoors
  • Concern for the community and its environment

Peggy Compton

or your local program contact (see listing at:

© 2007 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, UW-Extension provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title IX requirements. UW-Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, ethnic background, or economic circumstances. All rights reserved.
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