Rock River Coalition celebrates 20 years of water quality stewardship

Stream monitor volunteers Jeanine Mason and Dale Klingbeil. (Photo by Nancy Sheehan)
Stream monitor volunteers Jeanine Mason and Dale Klingbeil. (Photo by Nancy Sheehan)

Staff Report

JEFFERSON, Wis. — Have you ever wondered who monitors the quality of our streams and rivers? The Rock River Coalition, celebrating its 20th anniversary, plays a critical role through its extensive stream monitoring program in south central Wisconsin.

The coalition works together with state agencies, county land and water conservation departments, as well as nonprofit organizations throughout the Rock River Basin to ensure critical stream sites have a volunteer stream monitor.

As Earth Day approaches this April, it is appropriate to recall that founder Gov. Gaylord Nelson called citizens to stewardship, to take action and personal responsibility toward the quality of our land, air and water. The coalition celebrates this ideal, and trains anyone interested in water quality monitoring to accurately measure and report stream water data.

As a volunteer stream monitor, you will measure water temperature, assess water clarity, test dissolved oxygen levels, estimate stream flow, and — most fun of all — identify aquatic insects,” said Nancy Sheehan, stream monitoring coordinator for the coalition. “Just bring your curiosity and a willingness to spend about two hours by a stream once a month from April through October.”

Volunteers learn how to use state standardized methods and equipment for use in the field. Training workshops begin this month, so contact Nancy Sheehan at (608) 515-9434 or, or register online at to join a workshop.

How extensive is the coalition’s stream monitoring program?

The coalition has 105 trained volunteers to monitor more than 80 sites spread over 10 counties in south central Wisconsin. The basin consists of the Rock River and all its tributaries, with 3,900 total river miles in its 3,777 square miles of land.

The quality of the water in this interconnected web of rivers, streams and lakes is directly impacted by pollutants entering the system, significantly affecting wildlife ecosystems, our communities, recreational opportunities and economies. That’s why the Rock River Coalition’s data collection plays such a vital role to the region; the information is used to assess the baseline status of the water, make recovery plans and measure the effectiveness of those initiatives. To be sure, through its network of volunteers and partners, the coalition has accomplished a considerable task.

Rock River Coalition’s 20th anniversary

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Rock River Coalition will engage in monthly events, connecting communities and people to rivers and streams. This month, as we celebrate Earth Day, the coalition will focus on student involvement by participating in UW-Whitewater’s EcoFair April 23 at the Whitewater campus. Coalition representatives will engage students in a conversation about the importance of healthy streams and rivers, and encourage participation in stream monitoring projects in the area. By introducing water stewardship through practical field work, volunteers form a bond to natural resources that can continue throughout their lives.

Visit the Rock River Coalition website for monthly 20th anniversary events, including stream clean-up days, a water tour on Rock Lake, participation in the Lake Ripley Fair and Yahara Riverfest:

Level 1 volunteer stream monitoring trainings are as follow:

Saturday, April 26: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. — Stoughton Senior Center, Stoughton, Wis. (Dane County)

Saturday, May 3: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. — DeForest Area Public Library, DeForest, Wis. (Dane County)

Saturday, May 3: 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., UW-Waukesha Field Station, Waterville, Wis. (Waukesha County)

Saturday, May 10: 9 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. — Amundson Center, Cambridge, Wis. (Jefferson County)

Saturday, May 31: 9 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. — Turtle Creek Parkway, Clinton, Wis. (Rock County)

Saturday, June 7: 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Marsh Haven Nature Center, Waupun, Wis. (Dodge County)

No registration fee required. If you wish to register or learn more about these training workshops, contact Nancy Sheehan, RRC stream monitoring coordinator, at

From the April 16-22, 2014, issue

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