Roanoke Riverkeepers

Do you love being outside? Are you fascinated by nature? Are you concerned about the health of your local watershed? Remember how fun it was to play in the creek as a kid? Consider becoming a volunteer stream monitor!

What is it?

The City of Roanoke’s Stormwater Division, along with local partner organizations has developed a volunteer stream monitoring program focusing on the health of the Roanoke River and its tributaries. This citizen science program allows community members to engage in local streams and become part of the solution in achieving clean, healthy streams. Volunteers monitor streams by taking samples of benthic macroinvertebrates: small insects that live on the bottoms of the streambed and include water pennies, dragonflies, mayflies and more. Abundance and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates in the stream beds are indicators of the ecological health for the section of stream that is sampled.

Why Is It Important?

The major threat to our waterways today is pollution. Every time it rains, natural and man-made pollutants wash into streams and wetlands through the storm drain system. In the City of Roanoke, the Roanoke River and 11 of the 13 tributaries are currently impaired for exceeding safe levels of various pollutants. These include bacteria (E.coli), sediment, temperature, and PCBs. Other common sources of urban pollution include pesticides, fertilizers, metals, pet waste, and motor oil. In order to understand the pollution and find the solutions, it is essential to measure and monitor water quality.

Water quality monitoring is an efficient tool to assess the health of our rivers, creeks, and streams. Many benthic macroinvertebrates are extremely sensitive to pollutants. They often respond to changes in water quality caused by the introduction of various contaminants. The work you do as a volunteer stream monitor has real and valuable scientific importance to your local community.

What Do I Do?

The Citizen Science Water Monitoring Program needs energetic and committed stream monitors, like you!

Training is required before becoming a qualified stream monitor.Sessions are held throughout the year, teaching participants stream sampling methods and how to identify macroinvertebrates through hands-on experience. The training also includes basic watershed education, safety information, and instruction on methods of data collection and analysis. Once qualified, you will be provided with monitoring equipment and can begin sampling with a partner. Strategic and accessible sites have been selected around the City of Roanoke for volunteers to conduct their monitoring. We ask that you sample at least three designated times a year to get accurate baseline data and to track changes in water quality. The Stormwater Division will use the information to identify water quality issues and locate pollutant sources.

You do not have to be a scientist to be a stream monitor; just be willing to learn and have fun! and join the Roanoke Riverkeepers Program!