Stream Quality Monitoring Program
How Are Streams Monitored?
Rivers and streams in the Ohio Scenic Rivers program are monitored regularly to ensure that the water quality remains high.
They are monitored by collecting and counting small aquatic organisms (macroinvertebrates) such as insect larvae, crayfish and snails. Macroinvertebrates are highly effective barometers of a river's health because they have varying tolerances to pollution. The presence, quantity and diversity of macroinvertebrates can be used as an overall indicator of stream health including potential problems.
The monitoring process includes seining the same portion of a river 3 times a year and counting macroinvertebrates, which are then returned to the water. The macroinvertebrate survey data is entered into an assessment form and a score is calculated for the site. This scoring technique is called the cumulative index value and it helps determine if the quality of the site is excellent, good, fair or poor.
Because SQM doesn't require any chemical analysis, it is a simple and cost-effective method of testing a stream's health.
Who Monitors the Rivers?
The Stream Quality Monitoring (SQM) program is coordinated by regional employees, but most of the monitoring is done by volunteers who observe firsthand any changes occurring in the river.
Thousands of participants help the trained volunteers survey about 150 designated stations on Ohio's scenic rivers. Participants range from scouting groups and school classes to conservation groups, fishing and hunting clubs, and senior citizens.
Volunteers fill out assessment forms for their assigned stations a few times per year, which helps the division prepare a cumulative index value for each stream station.
The assessment data are used to produce the annual Stream Quality Report for each scenic river. While some fluctuations in data are normal, big changes can indicate potential water quality problems, which would prompt further investigation. Ongoing monitoring is essential to protecting the health of Ohio's Scenic Rivers.