Since it’s launch in 2006, Milwaukee Riverkeeper has established a watershed-wide network of trained citizen volunteers who monitor streams and rivers throughout the Milwaukee River Basin during the months of May thru October. Our program is a piece of the statewide Water Action Volunteers (WAV) Stream Monitoring Program managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and University of Wisconsin- Extension (UW-Ex).

Monitoring sites are located within the six major watersheds and subwatersheds of the Milwaukee River Basin; the East and West Milwaukee River Branches, the Milwaukee River North, the Milwaukee River South, the Menomonee River, the Kinnickinnic River, and the Cedar Creek sub watersheds.

By visiting their assigned site(s) once a month from May to October, our volunteers not only aid in keeping tabs on our water quality throughout the year, they serve as additional “eyes, ears and noses” in the field, helping to recognize and identify questionable practices, erosion control violations, illicit discharges, etc. Ultimately, we hope our volunteer monitoring program continues to build on the WDNR’s and UW-EX’s efforts to improve the quality and quantity of citizen-collected data that is used to monitor the health of our waterways.

What do volunteers monitor?

Volunteers are trained at two levels of water quality monitoring based on the Water Action Volunteers (WAV) Stream Monitoring Program protocol created by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and University of Wisconsin- Extension (UW-EX). Volunteers begin at Level I then graduate to Level II.

Level I volunteers learn to monitor dissolved oxygen (DO), air and water temperature, turbidity, stream flow, and periodically assess macroinvertebrate populations and stream habitat and channel conditions.

Level II volunteers monitor water quality using calibrated sensors to measure DO, water acidity (pH), specific conductivity (ability of water to conduct an electrical current) and water temperature. In addition, monitors deploy automated thermistors which measure water temperature on an hourly basis throughout the monitoring season. When necessary, volunteers also collect and send water samples to the State Lab of Hygiene in Madison, WI to be tested for phosphorus levels.

All volunteers are asked to enter their monitoring data into the WDNR’s “SWIMS” database. The database is linked to the WDNR website and the Surface Water Data Viewer online mapping tool for the public and WDNR staff to use. Such access encourages data sharing among public and private groups, aids in water quality education, and helps WDNR staff make well-informed management decisions.

How can I become a Water Quality Monitor?

Individuals interested in volunteer water quality monitoring must attend a mandatory 4 hour training session in late April or early May.

For more information contact our Water Quality Specialist, Zac Driscoll. zac@milwaukeeriverkeeper.org
(414)-287-0207 x 4