Cedar Creek at Division Road


The Water Action Volunteers Program (WAV) involves citizen monitors in the collection of stream water quality data that may be used by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and their partner organizations. Program goals include building relationships between DNR staff and citizen monitors while assessing streams in need of additional monitoring, restoration, and/or protection. Ultimately, volunteer participation increases capabilities of the DNR and communities to monitor streams, providing water quality information that may be used to make decisions that affect the management of streams throughout Wisconsin.


The main goal of the WAV program is to preserve and protect Wisconsin’s streams and the lakes to which they are connected. Objectives of the program are to educate and empower citizens to share their data, to obtain high quality data useful for DNR decision-making, and to encourage data and knowledge sharing. The process of data collection by Wisconsin residents enhances their understanding of water quality parameters, and in many cases, interests them in assisting with more sophisticated projects, including the collection of additional biological, chemical, and physical site data. Ultimately, a goal is that DNR staff trust volunteer data results, and therefore utilize WAV data to assist in making management decisions.

Study Design

Volunteer stream monitors assess water quality parameters identified in the DNR’s Water Resources Monitoring Strategy for Wisconsin. Volunteers may identify their own sampling locations. In some instances, WAV Coordinators, DNR, or county staff may recommend sites based on the need to acquire status or trends information, or other types of monitoring that are priorities. In general, volunteers are asked to monitor from May through October. Advanced volunteers choose primary (P) and secondary (S) sampling dates in advance and note on their data sheets which of those dates they monitored. Volunteers are asked to sample on the primary date unless there are safety concerns about being at the stream site (e.g., tornado, lightning, dangerously high flows) or a personal or family emergency. The goal is to monitor at the same time each month, about 30 days after the last monitoring visit. Volunteers are instructed to enter data into the Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS) database by the end of each month and to immediately report extreme conditions that may be hazardous to aquatic life to their local DNR or County biologist. Parameters measured monthly include: dissolved oxygen (concentration), dissolved oxygen (saturation), streamflow, transparency, temperature (instantaneous and/or continuous measurements), and sometimes pH. In addition, macroinvertebrates (Biotic Index) are assessed twice per year and habitat conditions are assessed once per year. Some volunteers monitor specific conductance, chloride, total phosphorus, E. coli, or other parameters.

Related Reports

Run Project Summary Report
View Umbrella-Projects
View Related-Projects

Citizen Based Stream Monitoring
Volunteer Monitoring
Reports and Documents
Sample site
Thermister under bridge
Activities & Recommendations
Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring
Collect chemical, physical, and/or biological water quality data to assess the current overall stream health. The data can inform management decisions and may be used to identify impaired waters for biennial lists.