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Stormwater Case Studies Search Results

Case Study Location: New York: Monroe County

Case Study Title: Enlisting Citizens to Monitor Water Quality

Minimum Control Measure: Public involvement/participation

Community WaterWatch Participants Manual Cover PageThe Monroe County Stormwater Coalition has enlisted the assistance of more than 50 teams of volunteers to help monitor the streams in Monroe County. The teams commit to conducting several activities, including monitoring benthic macroinvertebrates four times a year.

Location: New York: Monroe County
Annual Rainfall: 34.1 inches
Population: 736,738
Year the Program Started: 2000

Contact Information:

Todd Stevenson
Monroe County Department of Health Exit EPA Site
111 Westfall Rd
Rm 962
Rochester, NY 92832
Phone: (585) 274-7638  


The Monroe County Stormwater Coalition has several public volunteer programs that complement its monitoring activities, including a citizen stream monitoring program and a stormwater outfall adoption pilot program. The Stormwater Coalition's limited resources help in monitoring large waterbodies, while the volunteer monitoring program helps to fill in the gaps and foster local waterbody stewardship. Groups of citizens have adopted and monitored more than 100 miles of streams. They have also planted riparian corridors along their adopted stream segments. One full-time staff member coordinates the citizen monitoring activities.

Community WaterWatch Program

The Stormwater Coalition coordinates 50 volunteer teams of 3 to 5 citizens, who adopt a .5-mile segment of stream for 2 years. Most of the teams consist of family members, groups of friends, coworkers, or neighbors. Children and young adults are also encouraged to participate. Teams choose their adopted stream segments, which should be accessed through public lands or a team member's property. Several teams have been granted permission by landowners to access stream segments even though the landowners are not team members.

In preparation for monitoring, each team is asked to contact its local government to explain the program, describe what the team members will do over the next 2 years, and ask for support. Next, a representative from each team is required to attend a 2- to 3-hour training session that covers the team's responsibilities and safety issues. Each team is also given a participant's manual. The Stormwater Coalition also offers an intermediate-level training session for teams that want to improve their skills in benthic macroinvertebrate identification.

Team Activities

Within the 2-year period, teams accomplish the following:

  • Perform an annual watershed walk
  • Monitor stream temperature, velocity, depth and benthic macroinvertebrates four times a year
  • Conduct a stream and shoreline visual survey four times a year
  • Perform an educational and outreach activity in the watershed
  • Submit data and report any potential problems to the volunteer coordinator

After the training, the team is asked to conduct a watershed walk. The team members walk the .5-mile stream segment that they have adopted and also walk 1 mile upstream of their segment. During the walk, they look for potential pollution sources, such as ditches, stormwater or wastewater pipes, stream bank erosion, construction sites, and large areas of impervious surfaces. In addition, the team selects two locations where they'll conduct their visual survey and benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring. Teams are encouraged to select monitoring sites downstream of potential pollutant sources. The participant's manual includes a watershed walk form to help teams assess their stream segments. The teams can also borrow a watershed walk kit from the volunteer coordinator.

The visual survey and the benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring are the most important parts of the program. Each team conducts both activities four times a year at both of the monitoring locations selected during the first watershed walk. During the visual survey, the team members identify and record water levels, riffles and pools, stream flow (calculated by using a float), appearance and odor, habitat characteristics, and algae. The participant's manual describes how to conduct a benthic macroinvertebrate survey, and a supply kit is available from the volunteer coordinator.

The teams are also asked to conduct at least one public outreach activity during their 2-year commitment. The Stormwater Coalition suggests that the teams write an article for a local newspaper or talk to a local television reporter, present their findings and what they've learned to a community group or neighborhood association, participate in an environmental event, or offer a watershed tour for local residents.

The teams are also encouraged to conduct an optional activity, such as a litter pickup along their stream segment, storm drain stenciling, water chemistry monitoring, or tree and shrub planting. If the Stormwater Coalition has the funds, it provides the plants; if not, the Stormwater Coalition purchases plants from the local Soil and Water Conservation District and sells them to the team at cost.

Community WaterWatch Flyer

After every activity, the teams submit their data to the volunteer coordinator. In addition, the teams are asked to compile their data and summarize them in an annual report. The data are used for troubleshooting, tracking water quality over time, and conducting public outreach activities. The teams are asked to contact the volunteer coordinator immediately if they observe any serious problems with their stream segment.

Stormwater Stewards

The Stormwater Coalition started the Stormwater Stewards project in December 2003. It's a pilot project that asks citizens to adopt a stormwater outfall. The stewards monitor their outfall for oil, pesticides, sediment, litter, pool wastewater, car wash runoff, floating solids (like cigarette butts), and illicit connections from sources such as toilet drains and wash water. Citizens are asked to monitor their outfall two or three times during dry weather and one or two times during wet-weather events. They are asked to fill out and submit an outfall monitoring observation sheet. They are also given a fact sheet that outlines indicators and possible pollutant sources.

A Little More About How the Stormwater Coalition Works

The Monroe County Stormwater Coalition was established in autumn 2000 and consists of Monroe County, the City of Rochester, and the 29 towns and villages within the county. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is also a very active participant in the Coalition.

The Coalition has an interagency agreement among the members and meets monthly. The Monroe County Health Department provides administrative support. The municipal mayors and supervisors from Monroe County attend the Coalition meetings, and the representative from the Town of Brighton chairs the Coalition. Each member pays an annual fee, which is used to help fund staff and the various stormwater programs.

The Coalition tries to identify existing programs that can be strengthened so they can include the entire county. For example, Monroe County had a water quality education program, and the Coalition helped the county expand the program and give it a stormwater twist. The Coalition provides partial funding for a stormwater coordinator housed in the Monroe County office building. In addition, the Coalition helps pay the salary of an educator in the local science museum who helps educate museum patrons about stormwater pollution.

Additional Materials Related to this Case Study:

Additional Resources and Tools for this Minimum Control Measure

EPA presents this case study as an example to which Phase I and Phase II municipal stormwater programs can refer as they develop their own stormwater programs. Although EPA has reviewed the case studies, they should not be considered officially endorsed by the Agency and are not intended to represent full compliance with EPA’s stormwater Phase II minimum control measures. Each community must decide on the appropriate BMPs necessary to meet its unique permit requirements and local conditions.

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Last updated on June 08, 2007 9:09 AM