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Stream HealthWadeable Trend Reference Sites

Natural Community Stratified Random Monitoring

To assess the condition of all of Wisconsin's 45,000 miles of perennial streams a probability based stream monitoring program was developed. Probabilistic survey designs provide statistically-valid estimates of conditions large, hard to sample resources with a known confidence.

In 2010-2013 the Wisconsin DNR began a monitoring program to assess the condition of wadeable streams across the State using a probabilistic design called the Natural Community Stratified Monitoring program (NCSR). The Wisconsin monitoring design included sampling 550 sites over four years that were spatially stratified to cover the entire stream, geographic and Natural Community types found throughout the State.

Monitoring Objectives

By using a probabilistic design the State was able to determine the condition of Wisconsin's wadeable streams in a statistically valid manor. The results of this analysis provide an assessment of the physical, chemical & biological quality of the overall population of wadeable, perennial streams across the State. From the results of the 2010-13 NCSR program future versions of the project will consist of 50 sites per year and data will be analyzed every two years (100 sites per cycle starting 2014 & 2015).

Monitoring Design

Stream monitoring locations were selected using a probability based random selection stratifying by DNR District and Natural Community type. There are 50 sites indicated as "Priority 1" sites which must be sampled first. As sites are randomly selected the exact stream locations may not have been visited before and therefore not be familiar to local biologists. If a site is not accessible (non-wadeable, intermittent stream, access issues, etc.) the next highest priority site (labeled as Over Sample) in the same Natural Community should be selected for sampling.

Monitoring for the Natural Community Stratified Random Sites requires a minimum three site visits. One filed reconnaissance and two visits to sample during the appropriate biotic index periods. Fish, chemical, physical habitat and flow monitoring should take place during the fish sampling summer index period avoiding recent rainfalls. The macroinvertebrate monitoring should occur during the fall sampling index period.

Water Quality Indicators

  • TP Package, chlorides package, other (WisCALM Assessments)
  • Wadeable Macroinvertebrate Index (WisCALM Assessment)
  • Fish IBI (dependent on natural community). (WisCALM Assessment)
  • Physical (flow) Data
  • Qualitative physical habitat

Quality Assurance

 Field protocols
 In field Quality Assurance during data collection
 Sampling & transmittal procedures
 UWSP QA Processes
 SLOH QA Processes
 SWIMS Data flow QA checks
 SWIMS Data Management Checks
 Fish DB Data Quality Checks

Data Management

All data collected for the NCSR program will be stored in SWIMS or the Fish Database. Staff creates SWIMS locations for each sampling event as they are not pre-made due to the chance that some of the sites will be dropped. Quantitative habitat and fish community results are maintained by the Bureau of Fisheries management. All other data is stored in SWIMS. Field chemistry will be entered directly by the State Lab of Hygiene as long as the data are recorded on the labslip. Macroinvertebrate data is transferred to SWIMS via a data flow between the UW Stevens Point Aquatic Biomonitoring Laboratory after taxonomic analysis and identification.


Collected data will be summarized on a biennial basis for the purpose of reporting on the status of the state's waters for the Integrated Water Quality Report to Congress (every two years). The next reporting period is 2016. The data will also be used for key parameter package analyses and statewide condition summaries. A report on the NCSR monitoring program will be released every two years analyzing the current status of Wisconsin's wadeable streams as well as incorporating a tired element in future years.

Programmatic Evaluation

Periodic reviews to this study design will be made tp determine if additional sites or subsequent monitoring is needed.

Last revised:

Tuesday May 30 2017