What is Biomonitoring?
DEC's Stream Biomonitoring Unit has conducted biological monitoring (or biomonitoring) since 1972 to assess the water quality of the State's rivers and streams.
Biological monitoring provides information on the health of an ecosystem based on which organisms live in a waterbody. The types and numbers of organisms collected from polluted water differ from those collected in clean water, helping us determine "how clean" (level of water quality) the water is and to detect water quality changes over time.
Macroinvertebrates, fish, and algae are all widely used in biomonitoring. Although DEC collects information on all of these aquatic organisms, macroinvertebrates are collected and analyzed the most.
When and where are biomonitoring data collected?
Each major watershed in the state is monitored on a five year schedule as a part of our Rotating Integrated Basin Studies (RIBS) program. Each sampling season (June-September), three or more basins are sampled following this schedule.
In 2016, DEC's Stream Biomonitoring Unit is collecting macroinvertebrates from approximately 75 streams and rivers in each of three watersheds: Black River, Chemung River, and Lower Hudson River, as part of the RIBS Screening Network. All 2017 sampling points will be selected by June 2017 and will become available for viewing on the interactive and detailed Sampling Google Map similar to the 2016 Stream Biomonitoring Unit Sampling Google Map (link leaves DEC website).
How are biomonitoring data collected?
DEC adheres to the procedures outlined in the Standard Operating Procedure: Biological Monitoring of Surface Waters in New York State, 2016 (PDF) (3.4 MB) to collect, process, and analyze biomonitoring data. This ensures uniformity of methods and accuracy of data when performing biological monitoring of surface waters in New York State. A quick fact sheet on the method of water quality assessment using biological data is provided here: BAP Fact Sheet (PDF, 0.4 MB)
How does DEC use biomonitoring data?
State Permit Discharge Elimination system (SPDES) permit writing, compliance and enforcement, and setting permit limits that are protective of aquatic life
30 Year Trends Monitoring Reports for watersheds
Development and implementation of watershed plans
Development of numeric criteria that better define the levels of nutrients that result in impairment of water uses