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Puget lowland streams

Stormwater Action Monitoring (SAM) conducts status and trend monitoring in Western Washington streams and nearshore marine waters.

This study gathered environmental quality data for a regional status assessment of Puget lowland streams in 2015. USGS recently published SAM streams geospatial data derived thru GIS analyses on ScienceBase.  The final report is underway and expected to be finalized in January 2018. The science team's recommendations for the streams trend monitoring program will also be included in the final report.

The Stormwater Work Group (SWG) will make adjustments to the SAM Puget lowland stream monitoring program based on recommendations from the report and further discussion by the SWG's committees.

Study objectives

Stakeholders — including municipal stormwater permittees in Western Washington — want to know if stormwater management actions are collectively protecting and recovering small streams. The Stormwater Work Group asked this SAM study to answer the following specific questions:

  • What percent of streams meet biological, water, and sediment quality standards for beneficial uses within and outside urban growth areas (UGAs)?
  • What natural and human variables correlate with the status of streams within and outside the UGA?
  • What water, sediment, biological, and habitat parameters would be carried forward for trend assessment of SAM stream monitoring in the future, and at what timing and frequency?
  • How do SAM stream monitoring results compare to other monitoring programs in Puget Sound (both probabilistic and targeted)?

This web map represents regional stream sampling from 2015. 

Site selection

Stream sites for SAM monitoring were selected from EPA's Generalized Random Tessellation Stratified (GRTS) randomized Master Sample list, restricted to the Puget Sound lowland ecoregion with a target on small- to mid-size streams. Two distinct strata are being sampled: outside the urban growth area (OUGA) and within the urban growth areas (WUGA).

The sampling phase of the study occurred January to December 2015 at a total of 105 sites. The study’s sampling Quality Assurance Progress Plan (QAPP), appendicies, and addendum provides information on the sites and study design.

Almost all sites were sampled once in summer 2015 for watershed health. This sampling includes riparian physical habitat, in-stream sediment quality and size of stream bed material, water quality, benthic macro invertebrates, and periphyton. 

A subset of sites were sampled monthly for many water quality parameters including conventionals, nutrients, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, stage, and stream discharge.

Project tasks and deliverables for data analysis

Analysis of the data gathered on small streams in 2015 is now complete and a final report is expected in late 2017. A team of experts from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), King County, Ecology's Environmental Assessment Program (EAP), and Puget Sound Partnership are working together on the final report and recommendations.

Streams data analysis tasks are described for each team member's scope of work: USGS, King County and 2016 Ecology's Environmental Assessment Program (EAP). Two other EAP agreements are from 2014 data QA and 2017 WHM editor revision
USGS also provided cooperative funds for stage data collection and describe the work in a stage data memo.  

Task 1: Streams Status Assessment 

  • In Nov. 2016, the small streams analysis team developed a screenings thresholds document to give a basis for comparison when analyzing SAM results.
  • SAM Puget Lowland Ecoregion Streams (PLES) field and laboratory data from are stored in Ecology's EIM Database under the Study ID of SAM_PLES.
  • An inter-laboratory comparison was done by splitting water and sediment samples between King County Environmental Laboratory (KCEL) and Manchester Environmental Laboratory (MEL). Comparison results showed the two labs generated very comparable data for all evaluated parameters. The SAM streams project data are considered high quality from both labs.
  • SAM small streams probabilistic study design can be found on the PNAMP website.
  • Find Ecology EAP data review progress in 2016 memorandum.

Task 2: Comparison of probabilistic monitoring results to targeted monitoring program results

Task 3: Interim findings and recommendations for future SAM streams monitoring

Task 4: Project Management
  • Quarterly Reports from King County 2016 Q2, Q3, Q4 | 2017  Q1, Q2, Q3

Option 2 receiving water monitoring 

Pierce County and Redmond opted out of the pooled-fund SAM status and trends in receiving waters program for the 2012-2017 permit cycle. Their fulfillment of the permit requirement includes a separate receiving water study in their jurisdiction that follows SAM protocols.

Puget lowland streams QAPPs are available for:


Data is also stored in EIM under the following study IDs:

  • RSMP_RD_PLES2015
  • RSMP_PC_PLES2015