The mission of Stream Watch is to increase citizen community engagement in water resource protection, and improve our knowledge of stream conditions based on measured stream data. Year round volunteers assist in collecting data, and we offer seasonal internships to students looking to gain field experience through our partnerships with Stroud Water Research Center, Delaware Nature Society, and University of Delaware Water Research Center. Volunteers collect grab samples for lab analysis, conduct visual and in-stream water quality and habitat analyses, and help to manage the growing stream sensor network. Please contact Shane Morgan directly at mpc@whiteclay.org if you are interested in volunteering for this program and learn more about our volunteers here. 

Interactive map of sampling sites (note this is in beta form).


LIVE Stream Sensor Network

A few sites have stream sensors installed (EnviroDIY Mayfly Data Logger) to collect continuous in stream measurements of depth, temperature, conductivity, and turbidity. WCWA Sites with adequate wifi coverage have links to live data below. Data from sites without adequate wifi are downloaded by hand on a monthly basis and do not have a live feed.

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Mill Creek Sensor Location 132

Broad Run Sensor Location 109 (not live)

Egypt Run Sensor Location 110 (not live)

View and compare real time data from Stroud Center dataloggers deployed in various locations inside and outside of the White Clay Creek watershed.

The sensor stations have also been used to improve our understanding of the issue of salt pollution in streams and rivers (see Freshwater Sources Less “Fresh” from Greater Salt Use, Scientists Say). With recent snow and ice, as usual, lots of salt and brine was spread on roads and parking lots throughout the region. During thaws and rain events, this salt is carried into streams where it can have chronic and sometimes acute effects on biological communities. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), freshwater aquatic organisms should not be affected unacceptably if:

1. Chronic exposure—Four-day average concentration of dissolved chloride, when associated with sodium, does not exceed 230 mg/L more than once every three years.

2. Acute exposure—One-hour average concentration does not exceed 860 mg/L more than once every three years on the average.

During snow melts preliminary data from our sensors and grab samples show Conductivity levels in the thousands for prolonged periods at a time. Conductivity is a measure of the ability of water to conduct an electrical current and is directly related to amount of material (ions) dissolved in the water, meaning that conductivity rises as salt enters the water. Wintertime increases in conductivity in streams throughout the Delaware River Basin have been recorded by the sensor stations and, as expected, have been most pronounced in urban areas with prevalent paved surfaces that are treated with road salt. Below is an example of what we are seeing at Mill Creek during periods of snow melt.

salt graph mill creek.jpg

Stream Biology

Fecal bacteria are a potential issue in White Clay streams. To understand the extent of this contaminant the Wild and Scenic Program conducts stream monitoring at several locations during the recreational swim period (June-September). Monitoring began in 2012 in partnership with the Pennsylvania DEP and continues today in partnership with Stroud Water Research Center, Delaware Nature Society, and University of Delaware. The data collected indicates high levels of fecal bacteria and correlates with preliminary results from USGS sampling in the White Clay Creek Preserve. Sixty seven stream miles were added to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection list of impaired streams for exceeding water quality standards for bacteria. Land use maps were created for the areas draining to each of our sampling sites to help determine potential sources of contamination. Starting in 2016, we began conducting additional testing using genetic markers to determine the presence or absence of suspected bacterial sources. Determining which bacterial sources are present in the water can lead to more cost effective restoration efforts targeted at those areas that will be most beneficial in terms of reducing pollutants. 

Macroinvertebrates (small aquatic organisms) are excellent indicators of water quality. During 1991-2008, The White Clay Watershed Association gathered baseline data on stream health, and in 2004 partnered with Stroud Water Research Center to conduct a more robust macroinvertebrate study of all 19 Stream Watch sites. The results indicated that only one out of nineteen sites was considered good, ten were fair, and the remaining eight were considered poor based on what was found living there. 

Click here to download a brochure of the 1991-2008 Stream Watch project.

Click here to read the full 1991-2008 Stream Watch Report. 


water chemistry and Physical measurements

Water chemistry is another indicator of stream health. As part of our site visits we take measurements of conductivity, pH, Dissolved Oxygen, temperature, and turbidity. In additional to chemistry, several sites have stream gages installed to record water depth, and with the help of volunteers, we are collecting new information on streamflow to broaden our understanding of how headwater streams in the White Clay are impacted by drought, storm events, and other land uses. 


Other pollutants of interest

Nitrates, Phosphates, total suspended solids, and Chlorides are other pollutants of interest. Grab samples are sent to the lab for analysis. The majority of stream miles in the White Clay are listed as impaired for nutrients (Nitrates, Phosphates) which can enhance algal blooms, deplete oxygen available in the water, and create more expensive treatment costs to water purveyors who depend on the White Clay for drinking water. Total suspended solids (run off from agricultural fields, roads, and construction sites) as well as bank eroding stream flows caused by larger more intense storm events, and increased development (impervious surface - surfaces that don't allow for infiltration) create this pollutant. TSS make the water cloudier, making it more difficult for aquatic plants to grown, decreasing oxygen available for aquatic organisms, also make drinking water treatment more costly. Bacteria also tends to attached itself to soil particles, so high suspended solids can lead to an increase harmful pathogens.