Habitat monitoring methods

We monitor the health of streams by measuring the health of habitat, water, and sediment chemistry.

We collect a variety of data to evaluate conditions at rivers and streams throughout Washington. In addition to collecting biological data — such as fish, macroinvertebrates, and periphyton — we measure a variety of habitat, water, and sediment chemistry, as well as multiple physical parameters. It is vital to collect data using consistent procedures and methodologies, which allows us to evaluate the data for patterns and trends across time and space.

Different studies, same protocols

Several monitoring studies, each addressing different questions — such as Watershed Health Monitoring, Stream Biological Monitoring, Status & Trends Sentinel Monitoring, and Water Quality Improvement Effectiveness Monitoring — all use the same protocols when collecting biological, chemical, and physical parameter data at a particular stream reach. We collect all data during our annual sampling period, from July 1 to Oct. 15.

Measuring wetted width across a forest stream.

Reaches divided into transects

All stream reaches sampled are divided into 11 transects. In each of these, we collect a variety of data on substrate size, riparian and fish habitat, large woody debris, and various measures of human disturbance.

Raw habitat data are recorded in electronic field forms loaded on tablets. The data are uploaded directly into our Watershed Health database, where 262 habitat metrics are calculated and reported. More information about the habitat metrics and the methods we use are provided in the links below.

Get guidance for use of electronic field forms by directly contacting the Watershed Health Monitoring Database Coordinator.

Quality assurance monitoring plans

Standard operating procedures

We are in the process of making all Watershed Health Monitoring Standard Operating Procedures available to the public. Those that have been published are available at the link below: