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Citizen Monitoring Guidance

Virginia Citizen Monitoring Program Overview

Virginia’s Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program, or “citizen monitoring,” uses volunteers to collect data. Citizen monitoring programs are often run by local governments, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, citizen organizations, community groups and colleges. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) began partnering with citizen monitoring organizations in 1998. Details on how DEQ classifies and uses citizen data is available in the document below.

The Monetary Value of Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring in Virginia

In November 2018, DEQ surveyed citizen volunteer groups to identify how much money and time is spent monitoring Virginia waterways. The survey took into account costs that included monitoring budgets, paid staff and volunteer time, mileage driven to collect samples, and other monitoring expenses. Additional information and results of the survey is available in the document below.

How do you want DEQ to use your water quality data?

We want to take this opportunity to clarify the ways in which DEQ would like to make use of citizen collected monitoring information. Both citizen and other non-DEQ water monitoring data may be used by DEQ in these five principal ways:

  1. List and delist impaired waters on the 303(d) List – Level III data
  2. Source identification for TMDL development for waters already listed as impaired – Level III
  3. Track progress towards the restoration of waters which have an approved TMDL and may also have a TMDL Implementation Plan – Level II or III
  4. Target waters for future DEQ monitoring – Level II or III
  5. Educate land owners on the water quality impacts of land use activities – Level I, II, or III

Please fill out and return the attached form (one per group please) at your earliest convenience and let us know how you would like DEQ to use data which you are generating. If there are any questions, please see Contacts.

Quality Assurance Project Plans

When starting a monitoring project, it is important to document the quality assurance components of the project. A Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) documents all of the quality assurance procedures used to ensure the data generated is scientifically valid. Having a QAPP is usually a requirement for many monitoring grants. In addition, DEQ must approve a QAPP to use the data for Level II and III purposes listed in the section above. Additional information on QAPPs is available on the United States Environmental Protection Agency website

The link below is to a template organizations can use to develop a valid QAPP. While monitoring projects do not need to use this specific template, it does provide helpful instructional text as well as some example language to show what is needed for each section.

Coliscan Easygel Color Guide

Due to the popularity of Coliscan Easygel with volunteer groups, the Virginia DEQ has developed a color guide to help groups correctly identify E. coli colonies using this method. A copy of the guide is available below.

Virginia Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program
October 2007 Methods Manual

Volunteer monitors are faced with a wide range of options. If you join an established program in your area, many decisions have already been made for you. If you are starting your own program, you will have many decisions to make. Since no program can measure everything all the time, you must make choices based upon what you are trying to learn about your watershed and your resources. This manual will help you make those choices when designing your program.

Or, you may download the entire manual, Virginia Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program Methods Manual (2MB PDF).

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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