What is Streamwatch?

Streamwatch is a long running citizen science water quality monitoring program.   

Streamwatch Water Quality Monitoring

Streamwatch Water Quality Monitoring
Photographer: I. Kingsley © Australian Museum

Streamwatch is a citizen science water monitoring program that enables community groups to monitor the quality and health of local waterways.

Streamwatch is a long running water monitoring program initiated by Sydney Water and the Sydney Catchment Authority. From it’s humble beginnings, Streamwatch started with a trial of 15 schools in 1990. From 1991 to 1994 Streamwatch became a project of the Special Environment Levy Trust. The Streamwatch program originally had a focus on curriculum implementation in secondary schools, but quickly extended beyond schools into a citizen science program.

Similar programs were emerging in other states, the famous Round Table conference in Cobram, Victoria, led to cooperation in developing community water quality monitoring programs. This led to Waterwatch Australia being established as the umbrella coordinating group for developing community water monitoring.

In 2000, Streamwatch was renamed as Waterwatch for all areas outside of Sydney Water’s area of operation.
Since it all began, there have been over 1,100 Streamwatch groups who have monitored water quality at over 1,060 sites, and have contributed almost 31,000 data sets to the online database. These groups have been spread across greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Illawarra and Southern Highlands regions.

In 2012, the Streamwatch program was transferred to the Australian Museum and continues to be proudly funded by Sydney Water.

The Australian Museum currently has around 170 volunteers testing at 160 sites in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra. In the last 12 months alone 796 data sets have been uploaded to the Streamwatch database making almost 5000 data points. This amazing program is lead by the commitment of our citizen scientists and their contribution.

Streamwatch groups, made up of community volunteers, TAFE and University students, council staff, and high school teachers. They engage in the scientific observation of their local waterways. Streamwatch data can be used as an early warning system for pollution events and to provide a historical record of how waterway health has tracked over time. The data may also be helpful in evaluating the effectiveness of remediation projects, changed management practices and improved infrastructure. Valid water quality data, collected by Streamwatch groups, can help inform the wider public, landowners, land managers, local councils, universities, research organisations, catchment and water management authorities on the health status of local waterways.

The program has strong quality assurance elements built in to ensure that results are sound, reliable and useful. All Streamwatch groups are required to follow the same methods and use approved equipment to sample and then enter their results into the Streamwatch website.

Chullora Wetlands

The Australian Museum has been working to strengthen relationship within the Streamwatch community by providing additional resources to our citizen scientists. Volunteers have had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Australian Museum to explore our collections, have expert tours and talks by Sydney Water staff and participate in other citizen science initiatives like DigiVols and Waterbug Watch. Along with site visits, regular training and quality assurance events the Australian Museum has created a sense of community.

Sydney Water is a founding partner of the Streamwatch program.

For sponsorship opportunities of this program, please email streamwatch@austmus.gov.au.

Greg McDonald , Education Project Officer - Streamwatch
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Tags water monitoring, streamwatch, citizen science, water quality, catchment management,