Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring

A citizen monitor making a measurement
A citizen monitor making a measurement.

CCWI coordinates a citizen monitoring program in the Russian River, Salmon Creek, and Petaluma River Basins. Citizen monitors are volunteer members of neighborhood or watershed groups which are interested in watershed protection.

By monitoring local creeks and rivers, citizen monitors learn about their watershed, help pinpoint pollution sources, and identify widespread problems. CCWI trains citizen monitors in how to use the equipment, and lends the equipment to them on a monthly basis (like a library).

CCWI citizen monitoring training on the Laguna de Santa Rosa
CCWI conducts a citizen monitoring training on the Laguna de Santa Rosa in Sebastopol.

For more information about quality assurance, equipment calibration, and data analysis, please contact the CCWI office.

Creeks Monitored
Austin Creek
Green Valley Creek
Laguna de Santa Rosa
Mark West Creek
Petaluma River
Salmon Creek

How to do Creek Monitoring
CCWI Monitoring Handbook

CCWI’s Citizen Monitoring Program

CCWI hosts ongoing orientations for new citizen monitors. Please email us at

What is Citizen Monitoring?
Citizen monitoring is monitoring of the environment by community volunteers interested in watershed protection. Citizen monitoring activities include collecting water quality data, evaluating fish habitat, counting birds, or making visual observations of stream health. Community and resource managers use monitoring information to better protect California’s waters. Over 500 active volunteer monitoring groups are operating throughout the United States.

Why is it Important?

By monitoring your local creek, river, or stretch of beach, you learn about its health, and the plants and animals it supports. You can help pinpoint pollution sources or identify widespread problems. Your data can provide the background information needed to develop restoration projects or pollution prevention measures. You can work with CCWI to respond to complaints of water pollution in your area. Your actions can be instrumental to protecting or improving the waters in your community.

Would you like to be a Citizen Monitor?
CCWI is working with existing watershed groups to develop and support citizen monitoring programs. Citizen monitors learn specific testing protocols, and then can collect samples and perform tests which will be used to develop CCWI factsheets, inform the public about potential pollution sources, and support efforts to clean up rivers and streams.

Steps to Becoming a Citizen Monitor

  • Think about these questions: How often will you monitor? We recommend monthly. Which creek or river? We recommend one near where you live or work, or one you especially like.
  • Decide who you want to monitor with: form a citizen’s group/ neighborhood group, find a monitoring partner, or be a “lone wolf.”
  • Pick a stream, creek, or river to monitor. Do some basic research on the creek. Is it already being monitored? By whom? Can you team up with them?
  • What is the history of the creek, what issues are important?
  • Go on a creek walk, look for potential monitoring sites. Is there good access? Is it private property? Are there confounding factors (roads, culverts) which might affect the data?
  • Write up a monitoring plan. It lists who, what, where, why. The monitoring plan must be approved by CCWI. We have sample monitoring plans.
  • The first and second monitoring days. CCWI will accompany you the first 2 times in the field. We will go over how to use the equipment, calibration, how to get good data. We will show you how to fill out the Chain of Custody forms, and answer questions.
  • By your third month of monitoring, you’re on your own. You pick up the equipment from CCWI, do a monitoring day on your own. Drop off the equipment and Chain of Custody forms back to CCWI 1-3 days later.
  • Data analysis. We are compiling data from all over Sonoma County. You can also be part of the data analysis, publicizing your findings, and working with the Regional Water Board and others to develop fact sheets and educate the residents of your watershed (optional).

Data Collection Activities and Equipment Used

  • Stream Flow: Measured with folding orange stick, tape measure, stopwatch.
  • pH (acidity): Double juncture Oakton pHTestr 2
  • Temperature: Wet and dry thermometers
  • Dissolved Oxygen (DO): ICM Portable DO Meter
  • Turbidity: Hach 2100P Turbidimeter
  • Conductivity (Ions): Oakton Conductivity Testr Low; Oakton Conductivity Testr High

Site Selection Criteria

  • Areas representative of the watershed.
  • Areas that could be affected by water pollution and siltation from land use practices and development.
  • Accessibility for long term citizen monitoring projects.

To find out more about becoming a Citizen Monitor, or if you have concerns about pollution in your area, contact us at