Water Quality Monitoring

What is water quality monitoring?

Water quality monitoring is a process in which there is a clear plan to collect organized data from a waterbody over a specific duration of time. There are wide ranges of methods and practices to collect water quality data. Some common practices are physically collecting water, deploying sensors/probes, sampling the macroinvertebrate community, and much more.

The plan that is followed to conduct water quality monitoring is essential. The overall plan for sampling should include the 5 W's (Who, What, Where, When and Why) and how as well as the goal for the project. Anyone that reads the plan should have a great understanding of the project and how to collect the data. NYS DEC requires a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) for any project that collects water quality data to ensure that the methods and analyses used must be correct and reproducible.

Why is water quality monitoring important?

Water quality monitoring is important as it can provide helpful information on the condition, assist with source tracking, or answer a specific question within a waterbody.  Waterbodies are important as they provide drinking water sources, recreation/ economic support, essential habitat for wildlife and host a plethora of important ecosystem services. Assessing the condition of waterbodies can help inform the surrounding community, partners and state agencies implementing next steps to improve and protect them.

Assessments are based off the extensive overview of the data collected by looking at the information collected, identifying trends, examining exceedances in parameters and the macroinvertebrate community to determine if the waterbody is supporting its designated best use. Assessing waterbodies can make communities more competitive in grant opportunities to improve or protect their resources, as well as provide updated data to inform permitting and compliance/ enforcement actions. In NYS, the DEC has created a framework-Consolidated Assessment Listing Methodologies (CALM)- outlining all the information needed to assess a waterbody on whether or not it supports the designated best use.

Hudson River Estuary Program: Monitoring Unassessed Stream Segments (MUSS)

Monitoring Unassessed Stream Segments (MUSS) Program is a Hudson River Estuary Program initiative centered on water quality monitoring in waterbodies within the Hudson River Estuary Watershed. This is a two-year revolving water quality monitoring program targeting streams or rivers with Best Use(s) that are unassessed or have an unconfirmed assessment status. Unassessed means that water quality data is unavailable or does not meet water quality data requirements. Unconfirmed means that the minimum number of water quality samples are not met, and/or the required two years water quality data are not met. Monitoring unassessed/unconfirmed streams and rivers is a priority project of the Hudson Estuary Program with a goal to better understand the water quality conditions and health of waterbodies in Hudson River tributaries and their watersheds. This goal is tied into HREPs 2021-2025 Action Agenda Goals which can be found here

The MUSS program solicits and engages local partners via an application to recommend stream segments that they would like to be monitored by NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program staff. This benefits local partners by providing accurate water quality data that can assist with local land use planning, watershed management, and community outreach while also benefiting NYS by creating a baseline condition assessment of the selected waterbodies.

Monitoring Unassessed Stream Segments Program Goals

  • Monitor and assess water quality in streams and rivers with engaged local partners who can use the information in local stewardship, planning, and decision-making.   

  • Provide updated and accurate water quality data to participating partners (watershed groups, municipalities, Conservation Advisories Councils, Environmental Conservation Commissions, etc.) and public on the stream segments monitored, which can help assist with local land use and planning, watershed management, and community outreach 

  • Assist partners regarding “next steps” based on water quality results in monitored streams or rivers 

  • Update NYSDEC statewide Waterbody Inventory/Priority Waterbody List

Why is this program important?

Identifying and monitoring unassessed stream segments to establish confirmed assessments is important as it helps: 

  • Establish an updated and accurate baseline condition of the stream river 

  • Helps to inform permitting, compliance/enforcement activities, development of clean water plans and prioritization of water quality improvement projects  

  • Assist local partners with local land use planning, watershed management and community outreach 

  • Identify streams of interest, concern, or importance 


How to apply for Monitoring Unassessed Stream Segments Program

Interested applicants must meet the following requirements in order for applications to be accepted and reviewed: 

  • Be affiliated with a group focused on water resources/management: Examples: Watershed Groups, Conservation Advisory Councils, Environmental Conservation Commissions, municipalities, etc.                                                                                                
  • Letter of support from a stakeholder group                                                                                                 
  • 2 stream segments listed that the applicant would like to be monitored that are located within the Hudson River Estuary Program Grant Boundary                                                                                        
  • Resources the applicant can provide to compliment this research (community leadership, water quality, experience, resources, etc.)                                                                                                      
  • Explanation of how the monitoring results will be communicated to local partners and stakeholders.                                                                                                                                          
  • Must have willingness and capacity to deliver the “next steps,” if your stream or river is selected for assessment. 


Application and Resources

In order to participate applicants must fill out and submit the online application. The 2024 application period is now open! To access the application click here. Applications are due by February 5th, 2024 at 5:00pm.

For questions regarding Unassessed or Unconfirmed waterbody segments, email: 4pwlinfo [at] dec.ny.gov (4pwlinfo[at]dec[dot]ny[dot]gov)

To access the current solicitation letter click here.

Check in periodically, or ask to be included on a list-serve for updates on this program by emailing: thomas.niekrewicz [at] dec.ny.gov, if the application period is not open.