Illinois RiverWatch Network

  • IL



United States

About Us

What is RiverWatch? Fresh water is a scarce resource and it is our responsibility to protect it for ourselves and future generations. RiverWatch is the only statewide biological monitoring program that provides citizen volunteers a hands-on opportunity to become involved in the stewardship of our rivers and streams while helping scientists monitor stream conditions across the state.

Why is RiverWatch important? RiverWatch certified volunteers, referred to as Citizen Scientists, collect high quality scientific data that is subsequently used by professionals and the general public to gauge long-term trends in stream health, develop land management strategies, identify potentially degraded waters, and assess the effectiveness of restoration projects.

Through monitoring, volunteers also obtain a greater understanding and appreciation for our rivers and streams and extend and apply that knowledge by serving as advocates for the protection of those resources.

What do volunteers do? RiverWatch Citizen Scientists are trained to conduct an annual habitat and biological survey of their site(s) between May 1 and June 30. Monitors record information on organisms in

The habitat survey examines the physical characteristics of a stream, such as water temperature, discharge, and water turbidity, which affect the plants and animals living in the stream.

The biological survey uses benthic macroinvertebrates to evaluate water quality. These are animals big enough to seen with the naked eye (macro), lack backbones (invertebrate), and live at least part of their life cycle in or on the bottom of a body of water (benthic). Examples include mayfly and dragonfly nymphs, dobsonfly larva, and snails.

Citizen Scientists collect and identify these organisms because they display varying tolerances to pollution and habitat changes and are important indicators of stream health.

Where will you monitor? RiverWatch monitoring procedures are developed for small to medium size, wadeable streams. Citizen Scientists adopt a 200-foot stream site to monitor based on personal interest or proximity to their job, home or school. The program coordinator can also assist you with selecting a site.

What happens to the data? Volunteer-collected water quality data is submitted online to the RiverWatch database ( Data is available to the public and can be downloaded from the database.

How can you get involved? The program is available to all Illinois residents. No prior experience is required and there are no membership fees. Training events are provided each year to teach you proper monitoring techniques. Monitoring equipment can be checked out for two weeks from any one of our 50 loaner kit locations. Contact the program coordinator to sign up for training.