Frequently Asked Questions

Got questions?

Find answers to frequently asked questions about becoming a WAV stream monitor. Still have a question? Contact us!

Q:  What parameters are monitored?

A: Baseline Monitoring includes stream temperature, transparency, dissolved oxygen, stream flow, and aquatic macroinvertebrates. After completing a season of baseline monitoring, you might choose to be involved in additional monitoring opportunities, such as nutrient monitoring and a habitat assessment.

Q:  What happens to the data?

A: The data you collect are entered into the WDNR public Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS) online database. Anyone with web access can view the data in the database, which is searchable by county, stream or site name.

Q:  How much does it cost?

A: Equipment and training is provided to volunteers free of charge. You may choose to purchase additional items such as waders/hip boots.

Q:  Who can participate in WAV?

A:  Anyone interested in science, the environment and learning more about streams and water quality would make a great volunteer stream monitor. Current volunteers include individuals, families, natural resource organizations and schools/classrooms.

Q:  How do I get trained?

A: Trainings are held in areas across the state, generally in April and May.  The WAV website trainings page will help you know when there will be trainings held in your local area.

Q:  How can I get updates on the program?

A: The best way to stay up to date with Wisconsin volunteer stream monitoring and WAV is to subscribe to our email listserv. Click here to sign up to receive WAV news. You can also check the Events page on the website to learn about upcoming trainings, webinars, and more near you.

Q:  Should I continue WAV Baseline Monitoring if I am involved in Special Project Monitoring?

A:  Yes! Special Project monitoring is not designed to replace Baseline Monitoring; therefore, you may continue with both of these efforts during the season. However, if you find the commitment too time-consuming, it is okay to limit your involvement to one WAV program.

Q:  Where should I monitor?

A:  WAV monitoring is designed to be done on streams that are able to be safely waded into wearing hip boots or chest waders.  Some local programs ask citizens to monitor in specific locations along the length of a stream or river.  This provides an opportunity to get a snapshot of water quality within the entire watershed.  However, if you have a special place in mind that you’d like to monitor, you are welcome to monitor there. If you are looking for more guidance in where to monitor, it can be useful to contact your local WAV Coordinator or DNR Water Quality Biologist.

Q:  What is the time commitment?

A:  Sampling usually takes 1–2 hours per site visit. You may have to commit additional time for trainings and other events.

Q:  When should I sample? What time of the month, what time of day?

A:It is best to schedule monthly monitoring in advance. Pick a day each month to go out to the stream. This is your primary sampling date. Try to go out at the same time of day each visit. Some of the stream monitoring parameters are time-of-day dependent. Going out at the same time of day for each sampling visit will help to limit variations in your data. If you feel unsafe visiting the stream on your primary sampling date, or cannot sample that day for another reason, schedule a backup date to conduct your visit. This is known as your safety sampling date.

Q:  Do I need to use starch in my HACH kit?

A:  Yes, WAV methods for measuring dissolved oxygen include using starch as an indicator.  If your HACH dissolved oxygen kit does not include a small bottle of starch, please contact WAV program staff at or your local coordinator.

Q:  I am a WAV Baseline Monitor. How do I get involved in Special Projects Monitoring?

A:  Several times a year, announcements about opportunities for Special Projects monitoring go out through our email news updates. Add your email address to the listserv to get the latest WAV news.

Q:  Should I monitor the same site(s) every year?

A:  Long-term trend data is important for management decision-making. If your monitoring site is safe, convenient and easily accessible, we recommend that you continue monitoring it year to year. If your site becomes unsafe or inaccessible, please let your local or statewide coordinator know so that a new location can be established.