Protecting Virginia’s Natural Resources Since 1989

VA SOS Draft Policy Update

Virginia Save Our Streams Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program


Data Use Policy

The purpose of this guidance is to clarify the purpose of the Virginia Save Our Water Quality monitoring program and the mechanisms within the monitoring program.



Virginia Save Our Streams provides training and certification in a biological form of water quality monitoring for interested citizens.  The presence, absence, and abundance of different aquatic organisms can provide a water quality rating for streams and rivers.  Virginia Save Our Streams operates throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.


The primary purpose of the Virginia Save Our Streams monitoring program is to provide an outlet for interested citizens to actively protect and enhance their streams while providing consistent and high quality data where no other data currently exists.


Quality Assurance

The Virginia Save Our Streams Quality Assurance plan outlines the steps to be taken to make sure the data collected by our water quality monitors is of the highest data possible.  The quality assurance plan outlines the elements of the training and certification sessions, recertification process, and measures to ensure the method is reliable and compares to the protocols used by professional biologists.


Validation Studies

Two validation studies have recently been completed and the results are available on the web.  The first was completed by Dr. Reese Voshell in the Mountain/Valley area of Virginia.  The second was completed by Virginia Commonwealth University in rocky-bottom streams in the Piedmont of Virginia.  Based upon these studies, Virginia Save Our Streams will be incorporating a “gray zone” to identify monitoring events where a determination of good or poor ecological conditions cannot be made.  Sites continuously scoring in the “gray zone” will be recommended for further monitoring either by VA SOS or by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.



Virginia Save Our Streams will be updating our quality assurance plan to reflect changes in the data sheets, changes in preserving specimens, and the addition of the “gray zone”.


Data Use

There are a variety of ways that data collected by VA SOS volunteer monitors can be used.  Virginia Save Our Streams is currently working on a comprehensive guide of these uses and how to use your data for these uses.  One thing to note, for more than ten years on a statewide level, Virginia Save Our Streams has aspired for our data to be used by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to assist the agency in managing their monitoring program.  At this time, we have asked that our data not be used to list streams on the 303(d) Impaired Waters list without agency corroborate.  We plan on using the citizen nomination process to nominate those VA SOS streams that have unacceptable ecological conditions for inclusion in DEQ’s annual monitoring plan.  We believe that when our data indicates the stream is unacceptable, the stream is likely impaired. Despite this confidence, we would request that DEQ corroborate our VA SOS data before the stream is officially listed on the 303(d) list.  This request is to protect our volunteer water quality monitors from any potential negative effects of using their data in this regulatory manner and to ensure that the agency’s regulatory role is not diminished in any way.  DEQ should use our information to target stream sections that need more of their attention but we feel that the final action of listing a stream on 303 (d) should be based on agency data, not citizen’s; only agencies should trigger regulatory actions.


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