Water Quality Monitoring Efforts

Assessment and reporting of our State's stream water quality is performed by the Watershed Assessment Branch of the DEP. Teams of biologists and environmental specialists measure water quality and habitat information on-site; collect waters samples for laboratory analysis; and collect benthic macroinvertebrate and fish from streams and lakes throughout the state. A report documenting the Watershed Assessment Branch's Water Quality Monitoring Strategy was last updated in 2007. The Watershed Assessment Branch's Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) page can be found in the Additional Information section.

Biological and water quality data are collected throughout the year for a variety of purposes. Below is a listing and description of the major quality monitoring efforts. Water quality data from all of these efforts are maintained in a central database and are available to the public via our Water Quality Data Reporting tool.

A listing of our stream codes and names can be found in the Additional Information section.

Ambient Water Quality Monitoring (AWQM) Network

The network currently consists of 26 fixed (long-term) stations which are sampled bi-monthly. Sampling stations are located at the mouths of the state’s larger streams and rivers. Currently (2009-2011), all Monongahela River Basin sites are being sampled monthly, during the summer and fall.

West Virginia Water Quality Trends - 2015 Report

Long-term (43-year) trend analyses were performed on water quality data from the 26 AWQM Network sites. Much of the news is good. Concentrations of total phosphorus, total suspended solids and several metals (aluminum, iron, manganese, lead) are decreasing, and area impacted by acid rain are recovering. Mining, agriculture and other practices still impact water quality conditions in some areas of West Virginia.

Pre-TMDL Development Monitoring

The objective of this intensive monitoring effort is to collect sufficient data for TMDL modelers to develop stream restoration plans.

Probabilistic (Random) Monitoring Program

This program utilizes sites that are selected randomly. The data collected at these sites can be subjected to statistical analysis to provide estimates of conditions of wadeable streams within a watershed, ecoregion, or statewide.

Special Studies

As water quality issues arise and special sampling efforts are pursued to collect water quality and biological information to help understand the situation and possibly provide solutions.

Deployable or Continuous Monitoring

Continuous data obtained from long-term deployments of water quality meters will be utilized to better understand how water quality varies over time and how it relates to watershed geology, climate, and landuse. Following are some deployable monitoring projects:

  • Effects of limestone fines additions to acid precipitation impacted streams
  • Potomac fish health
  • Dunkard Creek
  • AML (Abandoned Mine Lands) Projects


Benthic Macroinvertebrate and Fish Information

Lake Monitoring

In 2006, the Watershed Assessment Branch resumed sampling lake, reservoir, and pond waterbodies after an absence of activity since 1996. Using the rotating Watershed Basin Schedule, much like TMDL sampling, and the targeted Wadeable Stream Monitoring, sampling occurs on targeted lakes (within the watershed group for that year) four times during the summer months (May-August). The number of stations per lake varies and is generally proportional to the size of the lake or the number of major branches or arms of the lake. The components of sampling include a vertical water chemistry profile (including the physiochemical properties, nutrients, and turbidity measurements), chlorophyll-a and fecal coliform sampling, Secchi depth, and some limited habitat and disturbance observations.