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Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators (WAVE)

Sign up with GovDelivery to receive updates about the WAVE project via email: training events, sampling schedule, equipment pick ups, and assessment results. (check the "Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators" box under Water)

Logo of WAVE program

Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators (WAVE) is a citizen-based water quality assessment developed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The purpose of WAVE is to enable citizen scientists to collect biological data for assessment of water quality on wadeable streams in NY State.

Samples Collected by Citizen Scientists

WAVE citizen scientists collect benthic macroinvertebrates from wadeable streams. To do so, participants submit sampling locations for review and attend a four-hour training session that provides hands-on experience with the required collection methods. Sampling can be conducted any time between July 1 and September 30. Participants collect riffle-dwelling benthic macroinvertebrates and preserve one or two example specimens of each macroinvertebrate type in a voucher collection. Both the data sheets and voucher collection are then sent to the WAVE coordinator.

Samples are identified verified and Interpreted by the WAVE Coordinator

The WAVE coordinator identifies all macroinvertebrates in the WAVE samples to the level of family and uses these data to calculate a water quality assessment:

Assessment Data
Sample Contents Water Quality Assessment Assessment Description
More than 6 "MOST wanted"
organisms
No Known Impact Highest quality category assigned to stream segments in the NYS
Waterbody Inventory. This Assessment is high quality and may be
used for state and federal reporting purposes.
More than 4 "LEAST wanted"
organisms
Possibly Impaired This assessment serves as a red flag for sites that may deserve
further investigation at the professional level. This assessment
alone is not conclusive. In fact 52% of the streams in NYS DEC
database with 4 or more LEAST wanted organisms are actually
healthy.
Other No Conclusion If a sample did not meet the above criteria, then no conclusion can be made.

WAVE Data Are Valuable

Wave volunteers looking at samples

Regular stream monitoring helps detect changes in water quality over time. Monitoring keeps track of existing stream conditions, detects threats to streams before they become a problem, and helps to evaluate patterns throughout New York State.

The WAVE data augment the professional monitoring conducted by the NYS DEC Stream Biomonitoring Unit. WAVE data in the No Known Impact category may be used for many of the same purposes as the professional assessments. WAVE data in the Possibly Impaired category serve as a red flag for sites that may deserve further investigation at the professional level.

Specifically, WAVE data are used by NYSDEC for the following purposes:

  • State and Federal Reporting - No Known Impact sites are included in the NYS Waterbody Inventory and EPA's Clean Water Act Section 305(b) reporting.
  • Monitoring Reports - WAVE data are included in the Trend Monitoring and basin reports
  • Rotating Integrated Basin Studies (RIBS) - WAVE data are considered when sites are selected for DEC's monitoring program
  • Non-point Source Discharges Issues - WAVE data provide basic background information on water quality conditions for NYSDEC staff working on non-point discharge sources.

In addition, county, municipal, and not-for-profit organizations may use WAVE data to support local stream restoration and/or protection efforts. We are very interested in tracking these applications of the WAVE data. If you are involved or are aware of a use of the WAVE data, please contact WAVE Coordinator, Alene Onion, at: wave@dec.ny.gov.

Become a WAVE Participant

For information on how to become a WAVE participant see our training page or contact the WAVE Coordinator, Alene Onion, at: wave@dec.ny.gov.


More about Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators (WAVE):

  • Contact for this Page
  • Water Assessment and Management
    Division of Water
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY
    12233-3502
    518-402-8179
    Send us an email
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  • Page applies to all NYS regions