Biological Assessments

In January 1997, the MDEQ completed a monitoring report entitled, "A Strategic Environmental Quality Monitoring Program for Michigan's Surface Waters" (Strategy).  Program assessment led to an update of the 1997 Strategy in May 2005. The Strategy was developed specifically to identify the activities and resources needed to establish a comprehensive, state-of-the-art water quality monitoring program, and has guided Michigan's monitoring program implementation.

Biological integrity monitoring is one component of the Strategy. Biological communities integrate the cumulative effects of multiple environmental stressors; therefore, this monitoring component is an important tool for water quality evaluation.  Good water quality is generally indicated by high biota (e.g. fish and macroinvertebrates) diversity and abundance, as well as an even distribution of individuals among taxa.  Conversely, poor water quality is generally indicated by low biota diversity and/or abundance. 

Wadeable Streams and Rivers
Contact:  Sarah Holden 517-284-5543 holdens1@michigan.gov

Rapid, qualitative biological and habitat surveys for wadeable streams and rivers are conducted using the Surface Water Assessment Section (SWAS) Procedure 51.  Procedure 51 consists of separate qualitative evaluations of the macroinvertebrate community, fish community, and habitat quality. These protocols can be used to assess the existing condition of Michigan's wadeable streams and rivers as well as detect spatial and temporal trends.  Specifically, the SWAS uses these protocols to:

  • Fulfill monitoring requests
  • Assess known or potential areas of concern or where more information is needed
  • Achieve assessment coverage of watersheds
  • Provide information to support and evaluate the effectiveness of MDEQ protection programs
  • Make site-specific determinations of designated use support as well as spatial and temporal designated use support determinations on statewide and watershed levels

Non-wadeable Rivers
Contact: Kevin Goodwin 517-284-5552 goodwink@michigan.gov

A draft version of "Qualitative Biological and Habitat Survey Protocols for Non-Wadeable Rivers" is currently being used to monitor physical habitat and biological communities (benthic macroinvertebrates) in large, non-wadeable, rivers in support of ambient water quality monitoring, NPDES permit support, and other point, and non-point source needs.  In general, a non-wadeable river or river segment is one where water depths frequently exceed the maximum depth that can be safely and conveniently surveyed in chest waders.  The assessment of non-wadeable rivers is conducted by identifying survey reaches that are representative of the larger river and catchment so that the information can be extrapolated to other similar areas, or by a targeted approach to answer more specific questions regarding the quality of the habitat and biological community.

Macroinvertebrate Status and Trend Sampling
Contact: Dawn Roush 517-284-5555 roushd@michigan.gov

A draft version of a stratified probabilistic sampling design is currently being used to statistically estimate the percentage of Michigan's surface waters that are supporting the other indigenous aquatic life and wildlife designated use.  Used in concert with Procedure 51, the procedure provides an estimate of attainment within each individual watershed but also pools the data to calculate a statewide estimate of attainment.  A subset of these randomly selected sampling sites from each watershed will be re-sampled every five years to provide an estimate of water quality trends based on changes in the macroinvertebrate community. 

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