Madison Stream Team
Teamwork Makes the Stream Work
Written by Ethan kunard
Published in the Madisonian Newspaper June 21, 2017
Last week, a group of 15 community members from throughout the Madison Valley gathered for the annual Madison Stream Team training event. While there were a handful of new members at the training, several of the volunteers were returning for yet another summer to collect data on streams to help assess the conditions of our local waterways.
The Madison Stream Team is now celebrating its 8th year of citizen science in the Madison Valley. This program is a partnership between several entities, including the Madison Conservation District, Madison River Foundation, Jack Creek Preserve Foundation, Big Sky Resort Tax, and MSU Extension Water Quality. In 2017, the Stream Team also received support from Patagonia to help cover expenses for monitoring equipment, lab analysis, and travel. In addition to the major project partners, we also work with nearly 20 landowners who allow the volunteers and program staff access to waterways to collect data that helps us understand the health of our streams as they flow through multiple land uses in the watershed.
Prior to the Madison Stream Team’s initial monitoring efforts in 2010, there was little information available about the health of our tributary streams in the watershed. The Stream Team, therefore, set out to collect baseline water quality information on a handful of important streams that flow into the Madison River. This baseline information helped provide quantitative data that allowed the community to better understand which streams are currently in a healthy state, and which streams might benefit from some small management changes or restoration efforts that would result in improved water quality.
Since then, the Stream Team has expanded its scope each year to look into more aspects of water resource conditions in the watershed. For example, we now have 10 stream gage stations setup on tributaries in the valley that allow us to measure hourly streamflow and water temperature. This allows us to monitor long-term trends in the timing and volume of our annual runoff in key locations throughout the watershed. Additionally, we are working to collect data to help better understand the connectivity between surface water flows and groundwater recharge. On certain streams, however, we are continuing to collect basic water quality information to assess any long-term changes (e.g., downstream of developing areas), and also to identify any potential opportunities for partnering with landowners to make improvements to the health of the resource.
We are very fortunate, in this valley, to have so much local support for programs like the Madison Stream Team. The structure of this program provides an opportunity for local input in the data collection process, and helps provide a foundation from which we can ensure healthy and resilient water resources in the Madison Valley. The success of this effort hinges on the time, commitment, and resources provided by the volunteers, local organizations, and partnering landowners that have allowed this program to grow each year. We appreciate the community support for this project over the past eight years, and we invite you to learn more about the Madison Stream Team by visiting madisoncd.org.