HRA Stream Monitoring

Sierra Club Piedmont Plateau Group is participating in the Haw River Assembly’s Stream Monitoring Program. This is a program in which a person or group choses a stream location somewhere in the Haw River Basin and, after an initial evaluation, monitors it 4 times (one each season) a year. HRA supplies equipment and training and we supply the time. The results are turned in to Haw River, evaluated and any necessary action is taken.

There is a substantial threat to the streams in the basin as indicated in the below map. Red streams are impaired.

The PFO’s in the surface water around  Piedmont Triad International Airport were initially detected through this program along with other threats.

The site we have chosen is in Big Tree Way Park on South Buffalo Creek (“X” on the picture below). It has to be an area that:

  • Is reasonably accessible

  • Hasn’t been chosen already

  • Has “riffles” - small rapids

  • Has a rocky or gravel bottom 


The monitors then measure some things like pH, temperature, and clarity of the water and strain out and count aquatic macroinvertebrates (barely visible “bugs” lacking a backbone). There are dozens of types and they have varying degrees of sensitivity to aquatic toxins. We identify, count, and record the different types and use a simple algorithm to develop an indication of the condition of the water.

When I first heard of this I thought “Yeah - right - count bugs to develop pollution statistics!” Later I organized a tour of the Greensboro Water Treatment Plant and found out one of the tests they do on water leaving the plant is to put minnows in it. If the minnows live that tells them something about the water - if they breed something more. Turns out NC DEQ uses macroinvertebrates also.

Interestingly, there are two types of testing done on water and both are needed.

  1. Macroinvertebrate and other biological testing indicates the general “health” of the water with respect to life without giving specifics. So it tests generally for the hundreds of possible contaminates.

  2. Chemical testing identifies and very specifically measures levels of specific toxins from the hundreds of possibles.

So if the first inexpensive and easy set of tests indicates a problem then the labor-intensive and expensive second option narrows it down. 

The entire effort after a half-day training session takes about 6 hours to set up initially and 3-4 hours 4 times a year. They are always looking for more participants.

Much more information <HERE>.

The program is patterned after a nationwide effort by the Izaak Walton League of America which would allow us (or anyone) to monitor any stream nationwide. 

Izaak Walton League of America - logo