Stream Monitoring

Samplers can better understand the chemical, bacteriological, habitat, and biological conditions of their chosen stream or streams!  The first step to becoming a Watershed Watch volunteer sampler is to get certified.  Choose which of these you want to do and complete the introductory online training

Once you've completed the online modules and quizzes, you can then arrange to attend an in-person workshop.  Register to attend an upcoming workshop near you on our Events Calendar.

Trained samplers are invited to participate in three annually coordinated sampling events, during which they visit their chosen stream sites to collect monitoring data and submit it to the central database.  These events take place in May, July and September and samplers can complete their monitoring visit any time during those months. Samplers are also welcome to monitor their stream locations independently at any other time of the year.


Watershed Watch samplers learn how to test the physical and chemical quality of the water at their chosen stream location using loaned sampling kits.  These characteristics help us understand the general health of the waterway and can indicate potential pollution issues, especially if collected consistently over longer periods of time.  

Four main water quality indicators are measured, recorded, and entered into the Watershed Watch database.  These include temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity.  Results can be compared to water quality standards or benchmarks that help samplers understand how their findings compare to healthy water conditions.


Watershed Watch uses methods to determine the concentration of E. coli bacteria in waterways as an indicator of possible fecal contamination and the waterways safety for recreational use.  A water sample is placed on a special card prepared with bacteria "food" that encourages bacterial growth. These cards are placed in an incubator for 20-24 hours, then the number of E. coli bacteria colonies are counted, recorded, and entered into the database.  The E. coli concentrations in the water are compared to a rating scale to help samplers understand water quality safety for recreational activities, such as wading or swimming.

NOTE: Some areas of the state support lab analyses for E. coli, which is more scientifically accurate.  If you are interested in requesting this service, please contact a Watershed Watch representative in your river basin area. You can also make this request when you register to sample during one of the three annual sampling events.


A stream habitat assessment is a method used to measure the ability of a stream corridor physical conditions to support aquatic life. If your habitat rates well, but you don’t find much living in your stream, there is a pretty good chance that the water quality conditions may be harming instream organisms. Or, if you have found good water quality results from your sampling, but you now find that the habitat values are poor, you may want to consider ways to improve or restore the stream's habitat qualities.

A habitat assessment is typically performed once each year to evaluate specific features in a stream segment and determine their presence/absence and how well each feature is functioning. These feature ratings are then combined into one overall score that indicates how livable the stream is for aquatic animals. 


While a habitat assessment will help us understand if conditions are ideal for aquatic life. the verification of their presence through a biological assessment can confirm that both habitat and water quality conditions are hospitable. 

Samplers learn how to collect and identify tiny creatures called aquatic macroinvertebrates.  The presence or absence and numbers of macroinvertebrates found serve as indicators of prevailing stream health and possible pollution impacts.

Existing samplers need to be updated on new procedures and practices for the 2024 Sampling Season.  These modules will be covered through a combination of self-paced, online modules (see below) and in-person sessions.

Module 1: Overview of KYWW
Module 2: Completion of the New Data Form
Module 4: Using the R-Card Procedure for Bacteriological (E. coli) Assessment

Module 5: Using the New Database (COMING SOON)

These modules should be completed before attending an in-person training session.
A current list of scheduled in-person training sessions is provided HERE.