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River Health

Long Term Trend River Water Quality Monitoring Network

The Long Term Trends (LTT) Rivers monitoring program is a baseline monitoring activity conducted by the Wisconsin DNR Water Quality Bureau. The LTT Rivers program was developed to track and analyze water quality trends over time in Wisconsin's rivers. The current version of the network, initiated in 2001, now consists of 43 sites, with a minimum of one site per major river basin, generally located near the mouth of each river located at or near a USGS stream flow gauge. An additional site on the Grant River in SW Wisconsin will be added to the network in 2014 to increase the site total to 43. Most of these sites are part of an earlier trend monitoring efforts that contribute historic record of water quality data tracing back to the 1970s and 80s.

Monitoring Objectives

  • Collect basic water quality information on Wisconsin rivers.
  • Establish long-term trends in ambient water quality across the state.
  • Provide program-specific water quality data at a large river sites where the combined watersheds drain the majority of the state to track and document changes in water quality over time.
  • Provide water quality information to support 305(b) reporting and the TMDL/303(d) program.

Monitoring Design

The general stream monitoring strategy limits sampling to streams that are larger, mostly nonwadeable Rivers. These rivers are generally more likely than smaller streams to receive full body contact recreational use, have a WPDES discharge, and provide at least some information as down gradient indicators of water quality for upstream land and water management practices. Sample sites are identified to incorporate as many of the data needs of the monitoring objectives as possible.

Programs that will benefit from this monitoring effort include:

1. Water quality standards development.

2. Effluent limits development – provides data for determining local effluent limits and eventual revision of basin default values currently used in effluent limit development.

3. Water quality standards attainment – provides bacterial and chemical data which can compared with water quality standards. Non-attainment areas would be identified on the 303(d) impaired waters list.

Site Selection

There are 43 LTT Rivers sites located throughout the state, generally at the mouth of larger rivers within and bordering the State. Some sites are located upstream from the mouth on some of the larger rivers (i.e. Wisconsin River) as one location at these rivers would not adequately capture the general condition of those rivers.

Sampling Frequency

Field sampling for the LTT Rivers occurs on a monthly basis for ~3/4 of the sites and quarterly at ~1/4 of the sites. Sampling for this program consists solely on water quality parameters including chemistry grabs and field measurements. Some water quality parameters at select sites are collected on a sub-monthly/quarterly frequency. Sampling is scheduled at least one week in advance to avoid bias from weather conditions. Samples are collected during the second week of the month for the monthly and quarterly scheduled sampling locations. Monthly samples are collected at 30 day intervals. Quarterly sampling sites should occur in January, April, July and October in order to roughly coincide with seasonality.

Last revised:

Tuesday May 30 2017