When we use the term “stream health”, we are referring to stream biology. Healthy streams support a variety of life forms with balanced populations. When streams are stressed, sensitive stream organisms die off, and tolerant organisms become overwhelmingly dominant. To see how stream communities decline with increasing land use, go to Losing Life.
Streams with more life have better water quality, and can provide better services to humans. Such services include water supply, recreation, and aesthetic enjoyment. We measure stream health by collecting and cataloguing benthic invertebrates. Our protocol was developed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and has been adapted by StreamWatch for our citizen monitoring efforts. The Commonwealth of Virginia maintains a regulatory standard designed to protect aquatic life. StreamWatch’s data are accepted by the Virginia Department of Environmental quality to determine whether streams are meeting the state standard. To learn about our stream health tiers, click here.
A variety of stream invertebrates [photo courtesy of Gus Colom]