Implementing a New 5-Year Regionally Consistent and Integrated Freshwater Stream Bioassessment Monitoring Program

2015-2019 Regional Freshwater Stream Bioassessment Monitoring Project
Lead Agency SCCWRP
Report Year Project Started 2014-2015
Status 15% Complete
Project Budget(1) $426,350
$85,265 per year All SMC Member Agencies
External Project Partners: Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program
California Dept. Fish & Wildlife
Technical Lead Raphael Mazor, SCCWRP
Key Words: bioassessment, freshwater stream biology, aquatic life stressors
Notes: (1) The project budget listed does not include sample analysis costs or funding contributions provided by the Water Boards.

Southern California’s coastal watersheds contain important aquatic resources that support a variety of ecological functions and environmental values, but results of the Stormwater Monitoring Coalition’s (SMC’s) 5-year survey ending in 2013 suggested that few perennial, wadeable streams are in good biological condition (Section 2.1, Mazor 2015). However, important knowledge gaps remained, such as the condition of nonperennial streams, and whether conditions were changing over time. Therefore, the SMC decided to continue the regional project to support management decisions that may improve or protect stream conditions.

In 2015, the new five-year program will build off the previous survey to answer key management questions about the regional stream conditions. Key modifications to the survey will address knowledge gaps, such as the condition of nonperennial streams, the effects of stressors of interest, and changes in regional condition over time.

The 2015-2019 Southern California Stream Survey is designed to generate data to answer three key management questions.

  • What is the condition of streams in Southern California?
  • What stressors are associated with poor condition? 3) Are conditions changing over time?

Although these questions are essentially the same as in the 2009-2013 survey, key refinements to the prior program, included in the new design, are as follows;

  • Expand surveys to sample both perennial and nonperennial streams, including firstorder streams.
  • Continue measuring high-priority stressors (specifically, habitat, nutrients, and ions, which were associated with poor biological condition at >25% of stream-miles). Discontinue low-priority stressors (specifically, water column metals and toxicity, which were not associated with poor biological condition at > 90% of stream-miles).
  • A subset of probabilistic sites from previous surveys will be revisited over multiple years to provide an estimate of change in condition, which may be extrapolated to the region as a whole. Sites will be designated as stable, improving, or degrading, and environmental changes associated with changing condition will be identified.

Approximately 30% of the annual monitoring effort will be allocated towards estimating trends.

The SMC’s main collaborators on this project are the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and SWRCB. The project contributions provided by SWRCB help to ensure integration with the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP). Additionally, the SMC’s stream survey serves as the southern California component of the statewide stream condition survey (i.e., the Perennial Stream Assessment or PSA).

4.1.1    Project Status Update

During the early period of the 2014-2015 reporting year, the regional program workgroup prepared a work plan for implementing a new 5-year freshwater stream bioassessment monitoring program. The goal of this work plan is to describe a collaborative large-scale, regional monitoring program of southern California’s coastal streams. It describes sample draw parameters, analytes that will be assessed, quality assurance requirements, standard protocols, and other information needed to ensure comparability across different programs. While the details concerning implementation (such as specific labs and contractors) will vary among participants, each agency can use this document to create sampling programs within their jurisdictions that will contribute to a regional assessment. The 2015-2019 program will place additional emphasis on sampling sediment chemistry and toxicity.

Regional monitoring for the 2015-2019 program began in the spring of 2015 and results from the first year program are being compiled and undergoing a quality assurance validation.

4.1.2    Project Related Publications

RD Mazor. 2015. Bioassessment Survey of the Stormwater Monitoring Coalition – Workplan for Years 2015 through 2019 Version 1.0. Technical Report 849. Southern California Coastal Water Research Project Authority. Costa Mesa, CA.