Stream Team

Water Quality Monitoring with the Tuolumne County Stream Team


Corinne At Sullivan At BergelThe Tuolumne County Water Quality Plan calls for monitoring targeted local streams to determine the effectiveness of plan implementation — enter the Tuolumne County Stream Team — a group of local citizens trained to monitor stream health.  On September 17, 2005 Erick Burres of the State Water Resources Control Board Clean Water Team visited Tuolumne County to provide training for a few of the team’s future crew leaders. In 2007, the Tuolumne County RCD took over responsibility for oversight of the Stream Team.

After learning the C’s and R’s of stream monitoring (Control, Check, Record, Report), it was on to the basics of temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, electrical conductivity, flow, and bioassessment.

The initial task of the Tuolumne County Stream Team is to monitor a sampling of the indicators of stream health: temperature, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, fecal indicator bacteria, and specific conductivity. Before hitting the creek, however, it’s preparation, preparation, preparation—or, more accurately, calibration, calibration, calibration. Each of the measuring tools used by the Stream Team must be carefully checked to ensure that the instrument reads accurately in the field.

Water Quality Monitoring Program Data

To the Field

Stream TeamThen, it’s out to the field for a lesson in observation: water color, odor, litter, vegetative conditions, bank disturbance, canopy cover, algae, cobble sizes, aquatic life, temperature, weather, flow, and much more.

The Stream Team’s observations are entered onto field data sheets as information is collected. Data sheets are reviewed by team leaders to ensure quality, accuracy and consistency of the data gathered.

Looking for Other Stuff

Stream TeamIn addition to the various physical and chemical parameters that the Stream Team can test for, they also collect samples to be analyzed for total coliform and E. colibacteria. These bacteria are indicators of fecal contamination that can result from humans, cattle, wildlife, or domesticated pets.  During the winter of 2009-2010 we will be sending samples of contaminated water to a remote lab for microbial source tracking, which uses genetic sequencing to indicate the source of fecal contamination.

What’s Next?

Stream TeamMultiple citizen volunteers have been trained for the Stream Team. The team members (generally three to a team) collect and analyze stream samples the first weekend of each month. We hope to expand our volunteer base and add new sampling locations, so please let us know if there are any streams or rivers you think we should sample.

Our current monitoring locations include sites in Woods Creek, Sonora Creek, Sullivan Creek, Twain Harte Creek, Curtis Creek, Turnback Creek, Mt. Eaton Ditch, Garrote Creek, and Big Creek.

If you would like to join the Tuolumne County Stream Team, or have any questions or suggestions, please contact Lindsay Rosasco at (209) 984-0500 or by e-mail at


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