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Project Watershed Central New York

Dedicated to facilitating water resource education in Central New York

The Save Our Streams Program

Save Our Streams Program
(Adapted for Project Watershed consortium programs.)

Save Our Streams (SOS) is the grassroots river and stream protection program of the Izaak Walton League of America. Founded in Maryland in 1969, SOS is based on the "adopt a stream" concept. Volunteers, including school children, adopt a stream and agree to become its active guardian. They protect their streams by checking the water quality, looking for signs of trouble and taking action to solve pollution problems. Thousands of volunteers across the United States use SOS techniques to assess the quality of local streams and rivers and to help solve water pollution problems.

SOS provides students with an unique opportunity to learn about rivers and streams through hands-on experience. By leaving the traditional classroom setting and venturing outdoors, students can begin to appreciate that the science they learn in school has exciting and real - world applications. In addition, they learn that their actions do make a difference, and their help is vital in ensuring our rivers and streams are protected.

The Project Watershed consortium has enhanced the Save Our Streams Program through the addition of physical and chemical components to SOS's biological approach. The physical is a stream flow measurement and the chemical is a series of nine tests, derived from the M. K. Mitchell and W. B. Stapp, Field Manual for Water Quality Monitoring.

  • Field Data/Stream Flow Measurement Form
  • Stream Discharge Measurement with Flow Meter Form
  • Chemical Water Quality Measurements Form
  • Biological Water Quality Measurement Form
  • Macroinvertebrate Tally Sheet
  • Weighting Curve Charts for Chemical Tests
  • Water Quality Standards for Chemical tests
  • Taxonomic Key for Macroinvertebrates
  • Current Stream Sites
  • Teacher-training Sessions

    On September 28/30 and October 2 in 2004, a short course on “bug” identification was offered to Project Watershed teachers and interested adults at Centers for Nature Education at Baltimore Woods in Marcellus, NY. A grant proposal for $1600 submitted by the CNY Chapter Izaak Walton League of America was approved by the Onondaga Lake Partnership Mini-Grants Program for this opportunity to learn more about stream ecology, stream communities and especially how to readily identify macroinvertebrates in the field.

    Chemical Overall Water Quality Index

    To determine the Overall Water Quality Index at a stream site, nine tests are performed. These include: dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform, pH, reactive phosphate, nitrate, chloride, turbidity and total dissolved solids. After completing these tests, the results are recorded on a weighting curve chart where a numerical value is obtained for each test result. The numerical value is multiplied by a weighting factor for each test. The weighting factor for each parameter varies according to its impact on water quality. Each of the nine resulting numbers (numerical value x weighting factor) are added to attain the Water Quality Index (WQI). Since the WQI is a number based on 100, it is then assigned to a range: excellent (90-100), good (70-90), fair (50-70), poor (25-50).

    Macroinvertebrate Water Quality Rating

    The Water Quality Rating Rating is initiated by identifying and then categorizing each of the macroinvertebrates collected into one of three groups, according to their known response to pollution: sensitive, somewhat sensitive or tolerant. The number of each organism is converted to one of these letter codes: A =1-9; B = 10-99; C = >100. This data istransfered to a form outlining the three aforementioned groups. The number of letters in each group is added and multiplied by the appropriate index number: sensitive = 3; somewhat sensitive = 2; tolerant = 1. The three products are added to determine the Macroinvertebrate Water Quality Rating: excellent (>22); good (17-22); fair (11-16); poor <11). The perceived diversity of the macroinvertebrate sample, not so much their numbers in each group, is the important

    Quality Assurance/Quality Control

    In the area of quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC), the Project Watershed/Save Our Streams program possess the following strengths:

    • Quality Assurance/Quality Control Project Plan was developed in 2000.

    • Study Design: Standard Operating Procedures was also developed in 2000.

    • Calibration of instruments conducted prior to each stream survey: pH meter, conductivity meter and incubator. Spectrophotometer and turbidimeter were pre-calibrated by Hach Company.

    • Standard solution testing done annually for each program: dissolved oxygen, reactive phosphate, nitrate nitrogen and chloride.

    • Split (duplicate) sample testing completed annually for each program: dissolved oxygen, reactive phosphate, nitrate nitrogen, chloride and fecal coliform count.

    A 2003 QA/QC assessment of the Save Our Streams Program’s weaknesses indicated the following:

    • There is a deficiency of macroinvertebrate quantitative sampling.

    • The manual (float) measurement of stream velocity is inaccurate.

    • There is a low frequency of split sampling and standard solution testing.

    • There is no replicate sampling.

    • There was a change in chloride test protocol in 1998 because the wrong test was selected.
    (Several of the above will have been corrected in 2004 - 2005.)

    Clarification of QA/QC:

    “In designing a project, you first need to consider how accurate your results need to be in order to meet the intended use of the data.” (Monitoring Matters, 1/03)

    QA/QC is a set of data quality objectives that determine how accurate, complete, comparable, and representative a project’s data are.

    Accuracy refers to the measure of how close test results are to a true or expected value. Accuracy can be determined by comparing an analysis of a standard sample to the actual value (US EPA, 1996). Project Watershed directors conduct tests on standard solutions and makes adjustments as necessary .

    Precision is defined as the degree of agreement among repeated measurements of the same characteristic (US EPA, 1996). Project Watershed directors strive to conduct each measurement exactly as prescribed in the Study Design: Standard Operating Procedures.

    Completeness refers to the comparison between the amount of data a program plans to collect and how much usable data were actually collected. (U5 EPA (1996). Project Watershed directors estimate that approximately 90% of all measurements/tests are completed and the corresponding data usable. Completeness is determined by comparing the number of valid measurements volunteers actually collect versus the number of planned measurements. Completeness takes into account incorrect analytical methods, equipment failure or breakage, adverse weather conditions, and safety issues.

    All physical, chemical, and biological parameters will be measured/sampled during each monitoring event. Student volunteers monitor their designated stream stretch twice a year; adult volunteers monitor bimonthly (April, June, August, October).

    Comparability refers to the degree to which your program’s data can be compared to similar studies. The Project Watershed directors ensure the comparability of its data by following protocols established in Mitchell and Stapp's Field Manual for Water Quality Monitoring and by the Izaak Walton League of America Save Our Streams Program.

    Representativeness refers to the degree to which measurements are relevant to the true environmental condition. Representativeness will be ensured by conducting all sampling and analytical procedures outlined in this QA/QC Project Plan and the Project Watershed CNY/SOS Study Design: Standard Operating Procedures.

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