photo of Bill Ward collecting water samples from the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River
Bill Ward collecting samples from the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River

River and Stream Water Quality Monitoring


Side by side sampling

What we do

What are our goals and objectives?

How good are our data?

What is the water quality like in your stream?

Access the data

Our reports

Want more information?

Other links

Come sample with us: Side by side sampling program

Our Side by Side program is designed to facilitate the comparison of data collected by different monitoring groups, such as counties, conservation districts, tribes, consultants, schools, and volunteer organizations, as well as state and federal agencies. Results can be used by monitoring organizations as a quality-control element, and by data analysis projects combining data from multiple sources to ensure results are comparable between organizations.

If you want to come sample with us, you need only fill out a questionnaire, identify our nearest monitoring station, lookup when we will be sampling there, and come collect a sample. If you send in your data, we will post it to the internet (anonymously, if you like) along with everyone else's that was collected at the same station and day. We've produced a Focus Sheet to give you a quick overview; the program's website is here: Side-by-Side Sampling Program.

What we do

The Washington State Department of Ecology has conducted monthly water quality monitoring at hundreds of stream stations throughout the state for nearly 50 years. We monitor by water year (October through September).  We collect data at the following station types:

Routinely measured indicators of water quality (and methods) are listed in the table, below. We occasionally sample additional constituents to meet special needs.

In 2001 we implemented a program to collect stream and air temperature data at 30-minute intervals. We deploy recording instruments at 30 to 50 stations, generally from June through September.  In 2011, we implemented a program to collect continuous oxygen data at a few stations.

Our monitoring program is described in these documents:

What are our Goals and Objectives?

Our goal is to provide timely and accurate water quality data and data summaries to various clients within the Department of Ecology and elsewhere. These data are used for a variety of purposes which may be expressed in broad terms as the determination of status and trends in stream water quality statewide. Some specific objectives of the stream monitoring program are as follows:

How Good are our Data?

Our Quality Assurance Monitoring Plan (QAMP) addresses quality control issues in detail; results are evaluated in annual reports (see "Our Reports" below).

What is the water quality like in your stream?

Water Quality Index

Our routine monitoring data are summarized by a technique called the "Water Quality Index" (WQI).

A brief overview of the index, detailed methodology, and a spreadsheet version that can be used to calculate index scores using your own data, are available through the links, below:

Results that exceed water quality criteria or the usual range of data are reported monthly.

Results that exceed water quality criteria or the usual range of data are available as soon as we get the data from the laboratory (usually a month or two after samples are collected). The report is based on preliminary results that are subject to change without notice.

Access the data

Most of the results we have collected over the years are now available online. WARNING: Data are considered provisional and subject to change without notice until our annual report is published. This can take as long as a year after the end of the water year. An explanation of our station numbering system is also available.

If you use our data, please let us know what stations and what you used it for. This will help us document the usefulness of the data and may also help guide future station selection. 

Publications referencing data from particular years should cite the appropriate annual report. For example,  

Hallock, D., 2009. River and Stream Water Quality Monitoring Report, Water Year 2008. Washington State Department of Ecology, Olympia, WA. 38 pp. + appendices. Publication No. 09-03-041.

Publications referencing data from multiple years downloaded from the web, should cite the web site. For example,

Washington Department of Ecology, {year accessed}. River and Stream Water Quality Monitoring data available on the World Wide Web. Accessed {date accessed}.


Four ways to get to the monitoring results

Option 1.
Search on a river or town name

Option 4. Click on a state map 
Option 2. Select from a state list
Long-term and recent basin stations
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Option 3. Select from a WRIA list

01A050 01A120 03A060 03B050 04A100 05A070 05A090 05A110 05B070 05B110 07A090 07C070 07D050 07D130 08C070 08C110 09A080 09A190 10A070 11A070 13A060 16A070 16C090 18B070 20B070 22A070 23A070 23A160 24B090 24F070 26B070 27B070 27D090 31A070 32A070 33A050 34A070 34A170 34B110 35A150 35B060 36A070 37A090 37A205 39A090 41A070 45A070 45A110 46A070 48A070 48A140 49A070 49A190 49B070 53A070 54A120 55B070 56A070 57A150 60A070 61A070 62A150 01A140 01D080 01F070 01G070 01H070 03A080 03B045 03D050 03E050 03F070 07C120 07D100 07D150 07E055 07Q070 08B070 08J100 08K100 09B090 09F150 10A050 10C095 10D070 12A100 12A110 12D050 14A060 15A070 15B050 15C070 15D090 15E070 15G050 15H050 15J050 15K070 16E070 17A060 17A070 17C070 18A050 18A070 23A100 24D070 25B070 25C070 26C070 26C080 28A100 28B110 28G070 28H070 32A100 32B075 32B080 32B100 32C070 34A120 34H070 35D070 35F110 37E120 37G120 38A050 38G120 39A050 39A060 41A110 41D070 41E070 41F100 41G070 41H050 41J070 42A070 43C070 45C070 45D070 45E070 45Q060 49B110 54A090 55B075 55B082 55B200 56A200 59A080 59A110 59B070 61B070 62A090 WRIA 19 (historical only) WRIA 21 (historical only) WRIA 29 (historical only) WRIA 30 (historical only) WRIA 44 (historical only) WRIA 47 (historical only) WRIA 50 (historical only) WRIA 51 (historical only) WRIA 52 (historical only)

Continuous Data

Continuous temperature data are summarized and available for download through the links, above. Continuous oxygen data (and continuous data for other parameters) are housed with our flow monitoring data in a different web application. The links, below, lead to maps showing locations where continuous data are available.

Continuous Temperature
Continuous Oxygen

Data update schedule

update type schedule
Water Quality Index Updated within three months of finalizing data.
results exceeding criteria As soon as a full month's data are available from the lab. Generally about six weeks after sampling. (Based on preliminary data.)
finalized data Data are not considered final until our annual report, which includes a quality control review, is published (or at least in final draft). This can be six to twelve months after the end of the water year.
preliminary data As soon as a full month's data are available from the lab. Generally about six weeks after sampling.
continuous data Deployed temperature loggers are generally collected by the end of October. Data are entered, reviewed, and usually available on the web by about March. Some continuous data may be available in near-real-time. These data are housed with our flow monitoring data.


Our Reports

We produce both routine and special reports. Our annual reports discuss the stream monitoring program in detail, including a quality control evaluation for the preceding year. In the past, we have summarized our monitoring data in reports called "The Condition of Freshwaters in Washington State." These reports included a generalized water quality assessment, a trend analysis, and a summary of water quality results by region. We occasionally conduct station- or region-specific assessments to address particular issues at a station or within a basin. A partial list of data analysis reports and monitoring program methodology documents are listed in the tables, below:

Annual Reports by Water Year (October through September)
 1991  1992  1993  1994  1995  1996  1997  1998  1999  2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011   2012  2013 
Special Topics in Annual Reports data year
Station by station analysis, including trends, at Puget Sound long-term stations 1991
Discussion of new continuous temperature monitoring program 2001
Reports trend power and proposes a simple method to predict it 2002
Reports extra turbidity data collected at several Crab Creek and Tucannon River stations 2003
Reports extra turbidity data collected at several Palouse River basin stations; discusses total phosphorus in-line digestion method 2004
Compares temperature results from grab samples to 7-day average of daily maximums and develops predictive tool  2006
Reports experiment to test our oxygen holding times; reports trends in automated quality control checks 2007
Trends in nitrate plus nitrite nitrogen and total nitrogen concentrations and yields in Puget Sound area major rivers 2008
Summary of 15 years of statewide metals monitoring and trends in metals in the Spokane River at Stateline 2009
Quality control review of continuous multiple parameter monitoring (including optical oxygen) 2010
Changes in metals in the Similkameen River after the re-opening of a copper mine 2011
Under consideration for WY 2014: Temperature trends at ambient reference stations or maybe statewide trends in WQI scores 2014

Other Freshwater Quality Monitoring Reports
Applicability publication title data year
Spokane Assessment of Changes in Water Quality in the Spokane River Between Riverside State Park and the Washington-Idaho Border 1982-2002
Nooksack Water Quality Assessment of the Nooksack River between Brennan & North Cedarville 1978-2001
Washington State Dissolved Oxygen Standard: A Review and Discussion of Freshwater Intragravel Criteria Development
Statewide Washington State Water Quality Conditions in 2005, based on Data from the Freshwater Monitoring Unit 2005
Statewide Washington State Water Quality Conditions in 2004, based on Data from the Freshwater Monitoring Unit 2004
Statewide Condition of Fresh Waters in Washington State for the Year 2003 2003
Statewide Condition of Fresh Waters in Washington State for the Year 2002 2002
Statewide Condition of Freshwaters in Washington State for the Year 2000 2000
Statewide Metals Concentrations in Rivers and Streams Dropped from the 1994 Section 303(d) List 1994
    pub. date
Methods Addendum to Quality Assurance Monitoring Plan: Stream Ambient Water Quality Monitoring: Correction of Objectives, Responsibilities, and Addition of Analytes (this addendum supersedes 0303200addendum1 published in 2007) 2012
Methods Internal guidance document for basin station selection objectives and process: Water Year Planning and Basin Station Selection Guidance 2010
Methods Quality Assurance Monitoring Plan: Continuous Monitoring for Oxygen, Temperature, pH, and Conductivity in Statewide Rivers and Streams  2009
Methods Standard Operating Procedures (supersedes "Stream Sampling Protocols"): EAP034 - Collection, Processing, and Analysis of Stream Samples 2007
Methods A Comparison of Water Quality Data Collected from Two Washington Rivers by the Department of Ecology and the U.S. Geological Survey 2005
Methods Quality Assurance Project Plan: Continuous Stream Temperature Monitoring by the Freshwater Monitoring Unit 2005
Methods Quality Assurance Monitoring Plan: Stream Ambient Water Quality Monitoring, Revision of 1995 Version 2003
Methods Continuous Temperature Sampling Protocols for the Environmental Monitoring and Trends Section 2003
Methods A Water Quality Index for Ecology's Stream Monitoring Program 2002
Methods Stream Sampling Protocols for the Environmental Monitoring and Trends Section 2001
Methods Ambient Database Management System Documentation, Version 1.5 (Currently being updated; not available on-line) N/A


Want more information?

If you have questions about a particular waterbody or monitoring station, you can contact one of the scientists below. If you can't reach them, try Markus Von Prause, 360-407-6681. We try to respond to all requests within five working days.

Washington State Coordinator Central Washington Eastern Washington Northwest Washington Southwest Washington and statewide continuous temperature



Markus Von Prause Dan Dugger Mike Anderson Howard Christensen Bill Ward
360.407.6681 509.454.4183 509.662.0480 360.407.6479 360.407.6621
photo of Markus Von Prause photo of Dan Dugger photo of Mike Anderson photo of Howard Christensen photo of Bill Ward


Other links

Ecology pages


External links