Webinar coming up: Understanding Your Water Report

February 21, 2017, 1:30pm Pacific, with Richard Johnson
For more description, please visit our webinar page, or click here to register.

Report Release! Water Monitoring and Climate Change in the Upper Columbia Basin

Please click here for the press release and links to the report!


Introduction to Water Quality Monitoring

Monitoring is the process of taking measurements of some attributes or qualities over time. Water quality monitoring involves the periodic assessment of the physical, chemical and/or ecological qualities of water. Groups typically choose ‘what to measure’ based on what issues they see as priorities.

For example, if you were interested in ecological health or change, you would most likely measure ‘water quality’ including temperature, pH, and often measure the diversity of ‘bugs’ in the water. The diversity of bugs, or benthic macroinvertebrates, is an indicator of ecological health. If you were interested in the water as a source of drinking water, you might measure turbidity, pH, bacterial content, and metals. And, if you were interested in assessing how the water source was changing with climate over time, you would likely measure flow — the volume of water in the stream and its velocity — as well as water quality.

The idea of monitoring is that in order to understand current conditions and to recognize changes, you need to measure them. While a single measurement can assess the health at a point in time, water monitoring over time allows us to assess the effects of change.

Water monitoring has been identified as a priority of water stewardship groups in the Basin. The Columbia Basin Watershed Network supports groups interested in beginning or extending a water monitoring program.


Issue-Based Monitoring

Groups typically choose WHAT to measure based on what issues they feel might be affecting their watershed. The table below is adapted from one provided by Jolene Raggett of Environment Canada.

Watershed Activity

Parameters to Monitor
Septic leachate E. Coli Possibly Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, ChlorideAquatic biodiversity (eg. CABIN protocol for streams)
Agriculture E. Coli Possibly Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, ChlorideTotal Suspended Solids (turbidity)Aquatic biodiversity (eg. CABIN protocol)
Mining – historic or active Total metals (ICP-MS)HardnessSulphate
Forestry Total suspended solids
Temperature Aquatic biodiversity (eg. CABIN protocol for streams)
Urban development Total suspended solidsNutrients (Nitrates, Nitrites, Ammonia, Phosphorus and Orthophosphate) E. ColiTotal metals (ICP-MS)CABIN would be useful for streams
Nutrients Total phosphorus Orthophosphate
Climate Change Flow Temperature Total suspended solidsAquatic biodiversity (CABIN)
Water withdrawal Flow



The Columbia Basin Watershed Network gratefully acknowledges support of the Columbia Basin Trust .