Volunteer Creek Monitoring Program
Currently the monitoring program is inactive, however we are still providing data from the Biossessment and GPS survey efforts.
The Contra Costa Watershed Forum joined forces with the Contra Costa Clean Water Program to monitor and assess creek conditions. The Volunteer Creek Monitoring Program assists community members and local organizations in collecting data on local creeks and watersheds.
The information gathered by volunteers is used for a variety of purposes:
to assess the current conditions of Contra Costa County streams
to compare stream health to state water quality standards
to calculate water quality and biological integrity indices
to serve as a baseline for comparison in future studies
Creeks are complex ecosystems that are home to many varieties of aquatic life, including fishes, invertebrates, and plants. In order to assess the impacts of our everyday actions to local creeks and watersheds, we use aquatic insects as indicators, a practice known as bioassessment. Community members, local college students, and volunteer groups can help collect specimens for identification. Volunteers learned more about the health of their neighborhood creeks and identified potential problem areas. While water samples yield a detailed identification of the water at the time of sampling, the density and diversity of bugs in our creeks yield a watershed-level perspective of water quality and habitat viability over time. Some organisms are very pollution tolerant, while others are very intolerant. By looking at the populations and diversity of organisms, scientists can learn a lot about the quality of the creek. Unlike chemical water testing, which may be expensive and gives detailed information about the conditions only at the time of sampling, bioassessment integrates overall conditions of the creek over time.
Contra Costa Monitoring and Assessment Program
GPS Creek Surveys
The data gathered through the program are available for use in various projects:
- GIS-based studies of biological condition of local creeks and watersheds
- research based on comparing GIS and biological data
- maps integrating spatial and biological data
- individual research studies
- link to all GIS data, invertebrate data, charts, and photos produced by the program [please insert link when available]
Monitoring Assistance and Resources
The Watershed Monitoring Coordinator can provide assistance to groups in Contra Costa County who are involved in creek monitoring activities. Equipment can be borrowed from the program (when it isn’t being used by the program) and technical assistance is availiable to provide help with data collection activities.
Using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, volunteers monitor the current conditions of their neighborhood creeks. In the summer and fall adventurous volunteers wade into local creeks, mapping the physical attributes of the stream channel (substrate, canopy cover, bank characteristics, etc.), extent and type of native and invasive vegetation, and human influences (outfalls, dams, etc.). By walking the creek channels in the County, we are able to document many different aspects of the channel that are too fine to detect on aerial photographs. As we walk through the creek, looking at the habitat and man-made structures, we enter information into our GPS units. Creek surveys provide up-to-date information on the state of the creeks, helping us identify sources of pollution and areas for habitat restoration. The scientific data we collect is used by a number of organizations working to protect and restore our aquatic resources in the Bay Area. Our Global Positioning System (GPS) Creek Survey program has established protocols that combines the precision of GPS technology with the detail of a traditional creek survey. Unlike GPS car navigational systems that identify locations on a map, our creek surveys actually help improve existing and create new maps. If you have GIS software and would like a copy of the creek or waterbody layers for the County, those can be found here.