Water quality monitoring is the only way to determine whether waters are safe enough for fishing, swimming, and other uses. Monitoring data can be used to establish a baseline of water quality for a stream, to identify and prioritize pollution problems, determine whether pollution regulations are being followed, and gauge whether restoration efforts are successful.
Only 19 percent of rivers and streams are monitored by state agencies nationwide. Volunteer engagement in stream monitoring is critical to ensure neighborhood waters are safe for people and wildlife.
In Virginia, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) relies on Virginia Save Our Streams volunteers to provide an accurate picture of stream health. VA SOS volunteers supply 12 percent of the data for DEQ’s water quality reports to Congress. The data also are used to determine whether streams are polluted and to initiate restoration and management efforts by the state
Virginia Save Our Streams can help you begin a monitoring program.
We can provide trainings, technical support, data management services, and some equipment support to groups and organizations starting new monitoring programs. We connect individual volunteers with nearby monitoring groups or help them start new groups.
Regional Trainers and Coordinators
VA SOS has a network of regional trainers and coordinators who can help provide training for individuals and groups within these regions. Please contact the regional trainer for your area to get started. If there is no regional trainer nearby, contact VA SOS for additional assistance.
Help for Groups and Organizations
- Choose one person that can help coordinate the monitoring program. You’ll need a dedicated point person to help select sites, help organize volunteers, and send reminders to volunteers for their quarterly monitoring. This one person will help ensure the success of your water quality monitoring program. VA SOS can provide technical assistance and advice to help the program coordinator get started.
- Contact VA SOS to set up an introductory training. An introductory training is approximately six hours and includes information on pollution sources, pollution prevention, macroinvertebrate identification, completing the data form, submitting data, and in-stream training in VA SOS protocol. Trained volunteers can practice monitoring for a few months and then request a certification test.
The test includes macroinvertebrate identification, a brief written test on the VA SOS protocols, and a field observation of the volunteers conducting a monitoring session. Data collected by certified monitors can be used at a higher level by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Certified monitors are eligible to become trained as regional trainers after monitoring for at least six months. VA SOS provides train-the-trainers sessions for qualified monitors upon request.
- Please budget resources for training whenever possible. To cover our costs, VA SOS usually charges a fee for training and certification. However – don’t let that deter you! VA SOS can help you apply for grants to cover the costs of training and equipment. The costs associated with VA SOS monitoring are usually quite low compared to other types of water quality monitoring. In addition, VA SOS often has grant funds that can help cover the cost of both training and equipment for local monitoring groups.
- Recruit volunteers. You will need at least two volunteers per water quality monitoring site.
- Choose monitoring sites.
- Check to see if there is an organization in your area that already has a volunteer monitoring program you can join as a stream monitor. Contact the local organization or regional trainer for your area and let them know you would like to volunteer.
- Find an existing community organization or local Soil and Water Conservation District and ask them to set up a comprehensive volunteer monitoring program for your community. These organizations can follow the steps above for organizations to set up a program.
- Contact VA SOS for further assistance. If there is no organization or regional trainer in your area, contact VA SOS to request training. We will do our best to set up a training convenient to you.