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tinyURL : gp0raef | ID : 681 Home   >   Water   >   Water types and programs   >   Surface Water   >   Streams and Rivers   >   Citizen Stream-Monitoring Program

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Citizen Stream Monitoring Program

Volunteers monitoring streams in Minnesota

The Citizen Stream-Monitoring Program (CSMP) combines the knowledge and commitment of interested citizens with the technical expertise and resources of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Volunteer stream monitors are a critical component of Minnesota’s Watershed approach to protection and restoration. When CSMP began in 1998, 17 volunteers monitored 22 sites. Today, almost 400 volunteers monitor over 500 sites across Minnesota’s ten major river basins. With more than 92,000 river miles in Minnesota, there are many streams and rivers that need citizen monitors.

Program goals

  • Help determine the condition of Minnesota streams by expanding our water-quality monitoring network.
  • Provide the opportunity for anyone interested to participate in a basic, centrally administered and interpreted stream monitoring program.
  • Support existing volunteer monitoring programs.
  • Facilitate awareness and understanding of water-quality issues, and promote shared responsibility for protection of Minnesota's water resources.

Uses for CSMP data

Changes over time in transparency, appearance and recreational suitability can serve as yardsticks to measure improvements or declines in water quality. Here are some examples of how CSMP data are used:

  • Secchi transparency trends for lakes and streams
    See summaries for the latest statistical analyses conducted on lake and stream Secchi transparency data to see if conditions are significantly changing over time
  • Water quality assessment and impairment determination
    Transparency readings are good predictors of the turbidity (cloudiness) of the water. CSMP transparency data are used to assess the condition of MN streams under the Federal Clean Water Act. When a stream transparency reading is below 20 centimeters, the state limit, or “standard” for turbidity is exceeded:

    Turbidity/Transparency -- Statewide

Turbidity/Transparency -- Statewide for Minnesota

  • Before and after a change in upstream land use
    If a land management change is planned near a stream or river, select a monitoring site just downstream of where the change will take place. Monitor before and after the change occurs to detect any potential effects on the stream.
  • Seasonal storm monitoring
    Compare CSMP data for rainfall events during spring, summer, and fall to background or baseflow (low flow) conditions. Keep track of upstream land management practices or crop status during this period.
  • Upstream and downstream of a water quality improvement project
    Monitor a site upstream, and a site downstream of a stormwater retention pond or stream vegetative buffer (fenced area along the edges of a stream) to evaluate its effectiveness at reducing sediment inputs.

For more information on water quality standards and the Impaired Waters Program, check out the following:

Be sure to check out the latest CSMP publications for additional information.

Datasheets and instructions

  • MS Excel Document Stream data sheet (wq-csm4-07)  — The electronic datasheet is a Microsoft Excel document, and includes completion and submittal instructions. If you use the electronic datasheet, you do not need to send in your paper datasheet. Note: see Tips for Mac Users below.

CMP Electronic Datasheet Tips for Mac Users

Since Microsoft Office on the Windows 7 Operating System are the current standard tools for CMP staff, we are unable to process your data in file formats other than Excel 97-2003 (.xls). While some Mac software supports saving in this format, we have heard that some do not. To avoid frustration, please check to see if you can open and save the file in Excel 97-2003 (.xls) format with whatever software program you happen to be using before entering your data into the file. If you cannot save the file to your computer in Excel 97-2003 (.xls) format, please mail your paper datasheet to us at:

Citizen Water Monitoring
MN Pollution Control Agency
520 Lafayette Rd N
St. Paul, MN 55155

We apologize for any inconvenience this limitation causes for anyone who prefers to submit data electronically.

  • CSMP Paper Datasheets: To obtain paper datasheets, please contact CSMP staff at or 1-800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota) or 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities Metro Area).


CSMP Training Manual

CSMP Training Manual

Contact information

If you need additional information or assistance, please contact: Laurie Sovell or Louise Hotka at 800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota), 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities Metro Area), email or by mail at Citizen Stream Monitoring Program, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., St. Paul, MN 55155.

Last modified on May 28, 2014 08:35