We all need clean water…….what can YOU do to help? Join the Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program (VWQM) to learn how to monitor a stream in Missouri!

As part of the Missouri Stream Team program, VWQM engages people of all ages in the work of improving the health of Missouri’s streams. VWQM teaches citizens about watershed health, water quality and how to monitor a stream and collect useful data. Volunteer data can be used to inform and educate Missouri citizens, establish baseline data on rarely sampled streams, locate emerging water quality problems and identify long term trends in stream conditions. Highly trained volunteers collect data that may supplement agency-collected data. 

About VWQM

The Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program is one of the most popular activities of the Missouri Stream Team Program.

The Missouri Stream Team Program is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Conservation, Conservation Federation of Missouri and the citizens of Missouri.

Goals of the Stream Team Water Quality Monitoring program include:

  • Informing and educating citizens about the conditions of our streams
  • Establishing a monitoring network
  • Generating water quality data
  • Enabling citizens
  • Halting degradation of Missouri streams

Stream Team Volunteer Water Quality Monitors are trained citizen scientists who monitor stream health in Missouri. The volunteer program is flexible, offering different levels of involvement and commitment that build on each other. Volunteers are expected to share the knowledge they gain with their community, periodically monitor a stream, and submit collected data in a timely manner. Volunteers begin by attending an Introductory workshop, where they learn the skills to map their watershed, calculate stream discharge, and submit a site selection data sheet. This qualifies them to receive monitoring equipment so that they can submit macroinvertebrate data. With further training, volunteers can learn to collect water chemistry data.

To learn more about the Missouri Stream Team program and the other activities offered for citizen engagement, visit the Missouri Stream Team website.

For more information regarding the Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program and data, please email streamteam@dnr.mo.gov

Interactive Map

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 drains into low lying bodies of water. The line between watersheds, called a divide, is the highest ground between two streams. Each watershed 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 (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 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 River. Chances are, wherever you live in Missouri, there will be a Volunteer Water Quality Monitor near you.

For questions on specific sites email the Stream Team Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program at streamteam@dnr.mo.gov.

Follow this link to the Interactive Map showing monitoring sites for the Volunteer Water Quality Monitors. Sites are updated quarterly. For questions on specific sites email the Stream Team Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program at streamteam@dnr.mo.gov.

Become a Volunteer

How to Get Started as a Volunteer Monitor

Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Workshops

There are currently five levels of training available to volunteers: Introductory, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Cooperative Stream Investigations. Monitors begin their training by attending an introductory workshop. Workshops are offered statewide, and the current schedule of workshops can be viewed at the Missouri Stream Team website.

Introductory Workshop

This workshop introduces the basic level of monitoring including site selection, stream discharge and biological monitoring. The primary emphasis is education about watersheds and the importance of biological monitoring in those watersheds. The workshop provides classroom instruction and demonstration at a nearby creek. Introductory workshops are offered in March and April each year.

Volunteers receive instruction in the following:

  • How to take a subjective survey of the stream site that will be monitored, including evaluating land use, riparian cover, stream bank and in-stream conditions
  • How to calculate stream discharge in cubic feet per second
  • How to collect and identify invertebrates that are living in streams. Invertebrates are indicators of pollution. Volunteers learn how to derive a water quality rating from the invertebrate collection

Invertebrate photographs and a training notebook are supplied at the workshop. Once workshop attendees return their site selection and stream discharge data sheets, along with a map of their stream site, they will receive monitoring equipment that includes a kick net, vials, magnifiers and forceps. The workshop is taught in one day.

Level 1 Workshop

The Level 1 Workshop is eight hours of in-classroom instruction that prepares volunteers to go to a nearby stream and investigate six chemical aspects of the water, conduct a visual survey and collect macroinvertebrates. The chemical tests include temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate (nutrients) and transparency. All six parameters can be related to the Clean Water Act laws that protect the water quality of the nation’s rivers and streams. Level 1 workshops are offered in September and October each year.

A review of macroinvertebrate identification and biological monitoring techniques is also included. After completing both an introductory and Level 1 workshop, and once workshop attendees return their visual survey data sheet, they are qualified to receive monitoring equipment, including pH and conductivity meters, a dissolved oxygen kit, nitrate kit and transparency tube.

For more information regarding the Intro and Level 1 Workshop, please email streamteam@dnr.mo.gov.

Level 2 Workshop

Volunteers who have successfully completed the Level 1 workshop and submitted two seasons of all four data types (Stream Discharge, Biological Monitoring, Water Chemistry and Visual Survey) are eligible to attend a Level 2 Quality Assurance/Quality Control Workshop in a laboratory setting. Level 2 workshops are offered in January and February yearly.

After volunteers complete their Level 2 training, they receive a short refresher course every three years to have their equipment checked and maintain quality assurance and confidence in Level 2 and 3 data. These refresher courses, or validation workshops, are offered in July and August each year.

Level 3 Evaluation

Volunteers who have successfully completed the Level 2 Workshop are eligible for Level 3 evaluation. Those volunteers who regularly submit all four data sets may be the most comfortable pursuing a Level 3 audit. Level 3 indicates program personnel have evaluated the volunteer in the field at their monitoring site. To pass a Level 3 audit, the volunteer must successfully demonstrate all of the procedures and techniques learned up to that point, as well as be able to identify all of the invertebrates at their site to Order. This evaluation is scheduled through appointment only. It is strongly recommended volunteers request evaluations during a time of year they regularly sample macroinvertebrates. By doing so, volunteers ensure the highest level of familiarity and confidence identifying the types and seasonally-changing sizes of invertebrates in their streams.

Cooperative Stream Investigations

The VWQM Program offers opportunities for advanced monitoring projects for Level 2 and Level 3 volunteers called Cooperative Stream Investigations. The program's goal is to foster cooperation between the department, watershed management committees and volunteers to perform sampling for special projects. The groups work together to develop a sampling plan suited to the scope of the watershed project, availability of volunteers and the ability of the department to analyze the samples. Representatives of the department and members of the watershed committee select sampling sites and parameters that best fit the goals of the particular investigation. Parameters chosen for monitoring depend on the project and require a 2-3 year commitment.

The CSI level of training allows the Stream Team Program to gain additional water quality information through Environmental Protection Agency-approved methods analyzed at professional laboratories.

Volunteers who have successfully completed Level 2 may be eligible to participate in CSI monitoring. CSI volunteers receive additional training to meet Missouri Department of Natural Resources protocols. Volunteer data collected in this manner will be of a high and documented quality, comparable to agency data and can play an important role in the department’s decision making process relating to total maximum daily load (TMDL) studies, permit evaluations and long-term resource studies.

All CSI volunteers are required to be Level 2 or higher, have consistently submitted credible data and commit to the duration of the special project. Volunteers will be specially trained in department sampling techniques, safety precautions, proper transportation procedures and chain of custody procedures. The department will provide appropriate sampling containers and equipment to volunteers. All samples will be analyzed at a Missouri Department of Natural Resources authorized lab.

For more information regarding Level 2, Level 3 or CSI, please contact Randy Sarver at randy.sarver@dnr.mo.gov.


Monitoring Resources and Watershed Information

How to Improve Your Data Quality

Learning how to collect and submit high quality data for your stream monitoring sites is a process, but taking the time to improve your data makes it more useful to yourself, state agencies and others who use the data. You can use the VWQM Data Reminders to evaluate the quality of your own data and improve your data submissions before you send them in to the VWQM Program. Feel free to reach out to VWQM staff if you have questions about any of the data forms, or if you would like help with interpreting your data.

Additional Ways to Help Protect Water Quality

  • 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.

Additional Resources