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Who's Monitoring Your Watershed?

No matter where you go, from small towns to big cities, down on the farm or back at the ranch, you're always in a watershed. They come in all shapes and sizes, from millions of square miles to just a few acres. A watershed is an area of land that catches rainfall and melting snow, which in turn drain into low lying bodies of water. Each one is a dynamic, unique place we call home. It's where we live, work and play and also where Stream Teams monitor. Everything we do affects the water in the watershed. Stream Team Volunteer Water Quality Monitors are trained “citizen scientists” who monitor stream health in Missouri.

Did you know you can join a Stream Team and become a trained Volunteer Water Quality Monitor, or VWQM, to protect the water quality in rivers and lakes near you? Because everything that is done on the land affects the quality of the water in your watershed, we need many trained monitors. Stream Team monitors help protect the quality of life for all living creatures in that basin, human and animal alike.

Stream Team Volunteer Water Quality Monitors do the following things:

  • Conduct macroinvertebrate counts in wadeable streams. Different insects have different tolerances for pollution, so they can give us a very good idea about water quality by their presence or absence in a stream.
  • Perform stream discharge measurements. Did you know you can actually measure the amount of water running through a stream? We can teach you how to measure stream discharge in cubic feet per second.
  • Check air and water temperature.
  • Monitor pH and conductivity levels. Conductivity measures the amount of minerals and other dissolved substances in a stream, while pH tells us whether the stream is acidic or basic.
  • Test the clarity of the water by checking the turbidity level. This tells us if there is too much sediment in the stream.
  • Perform chemical testing for nitrate levels in the stream.
  • Test for the amount of Dissolved oxygen in the water and determine the percent of oxygen saturation.
  • Advanced monitors also may test for chlorides, ammonia levels, phosphates, hardness, or alkalinity depending on where their chosen stream is located and what is nearby.

Our Missouri Waters

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources created a coordinated, holistic approach to protect water resources and preserve our Missouri waters. We named this innovative statewide watershed approach -- Our Missouri Waters -- because water, like all of our natural resources, belongs to all of us. We all need to understand and protect our waters to ensure a positive future, and the department needs the help of citizens, landowners, communities, industries and local leaders for this effort to be successful.

How you can help:

  • Form a Stream Team and learn how watersheds work, how to care for them and even how to monitor water quality. Visit the VWQM Web pages or the Stream Team website.
  • Do not put anything down a storm drain that could harm your local stream, river or lake.
  • Avoid farming or building right next to the edge of a stream.
  • Plant a buffer zone of vegetation along the stream to slow down Stormwater runoff and allow it to soak into the ground before it reaches the stream.
  • Construct a rain garden in your backyard.
  • Support developers who include rain gardens, Stormwater retention basins and green space in their development plans.
  • Incorporate erosion control measures such as silt fences around construction sites.
  • Keep your septic tank properly maintained.
  • Vote to support bond issues to raise money to build or upgrade your local wastewater treatment plants. Facilities that are overloaded or malfunctioning can discharge bacteria and toxins into nearby waters.
  • Have your soil tested and learn responsible lawn care when using fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.
  • Plant native species in your yard to enhance beauty, create habitat for wildlife and reduce the need for water, fertilizers and pesticides.

Missouri Watershed Map

The line between watersheds, called a divide, is the highest ground between two streams. Click on the map below for details that will help you identify the watershed in which you live. Notice how often towns are situated on the divides and how often roads run along these ridges.

The Hydrologic Unit Code, or HUC, system is a way to classify watersheds by size. This is a national system used to communicate the size and relationship of natural stream systems. Every hydrologic unit (a watershed or part of a watershed) is identified by a unique HUC, a number containing two to 12 digits. The bigger the HUC number, the smaller the watershed.

Stream Team Volunteer Water Quality Monitors adopt watersheds of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they choose to monitor a stream in a small watershed near their home. Other times they choose the watershed of a larger river where they enjoy fishing and canoeing, such as the Meramec. Chances are, wherever you live in Missouri, there will be a Volunteer Water Quality Monitor near you.

Link to MO state map.