Stormwater Monitoring

Question 1:  I’d like to hear from other volunteer groups that have tried any kind of first flush or storm event sampling.

Question 2: Does anyone have guidelines or procedures to conduct a first flush sampling event?

Question 3: Does anyone have suggestions/experiences for storm event monitoring from volunteers on short notice?

Question 4: Do you have experience in measuring soil moisture? If yes, what devices are you using?

Question 5:Does anyone have information on the impact a parking lot may make on water quality?

Question 6: Can anyone direct me to studies that attempt to show direct correlation between storm drain stenciling projects and improved water quality?

Question 1

April 2004
Eleanor Ely wrote:

Dear volunteer monitoring folks:

I am working on an article for the upcoming issue of The Volunteer Monitor about a first flush sampling event on the Russian River in California. Because of the Mediterranean climate here, we get a very big annual first flush event in the late fall when the first storm comes through after the dry summer. In the case of the Russian River, volunteers have been mobilized the past two years to go out and collect samples of this annual first flush. Teams of at least three visit each site and take three samples at half hour intervals. They make field measurements of stage and conductivity. Last year about 30 sites were sampled and the samples were analyzed for nutrients, turbidity and TSS, bacteria, metals, and the pesticide diazinon. It’s quite an ambitious effort, but then again it only happens once a year.

To make the article as useful and relevant as possible, I’d like to hear from other volunteer groups that have tried any kind of first flush or storm event sampling. I’m especially interested in hearing from other regions of the country, where storm event sampling has a different character.

It’s my impression that some groups have tried storm event sampling but have given it up because it was too hard to get volunteers to go out in bad weather, often at night, and there were safety considerations etc. I’d like to hear about problems people have had so that we can try to address them in the article. I would also like to hear about other successful efforts. And please let me know of any particular questions you would like to see covered in the article, whether about logistics, analytical procedures, or anything else.

Thank you for your help,


Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112

Responses to Question 1

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2004 14:33:48 -0600
From: Rich Schrader
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: first flush and storm event sampling

Hi Eleanor,

I received your phone message inquiring about first flush monitoring. I regret that I don’t have volunteers focusing on this – it sounds like a great idea for the southwest region. Several of the programs have writen in sampling plans to sample chemistry monthly and a second event if a storm occurs. This helps pick up the variability that occurs with runoff events which in New Mexico may have very large influence on watershed conditions.

Good luck ,

Richard Schrader
River Source
2300 West Alameda, A6
Santa Fe, NM 87507
505-992-0726 wk


Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2004 14:19:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: David J Wilson
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: first flush and storm event sampling

Dear Ellie,

I was involved in a 2-year study of sediment in the Harpeth River watershed, Middle Tennessee that focussed on storm events. The study was carried out under the auspices of the Harpeth River Watershed Association and the Cumberland River Compact and used turbidity tubes. (A substantial number of TSS measurements were made as well.) Storm and first flush sampling are essential in sediment studies, as the overwhelming bulk of sediment mass is carried by the transient high flows resulting from storms. Volunteers were matched, as much as possible, to sites that were near their homes to facilitate sampling at odd hours, and I generally put out “heads up” e-mail messages to alert the volunteers when a storm was on the way. We had a good but not perfect batting average on the sampling. We observed that sediment concentrations and amounts of floating debris were much higher on the rising hydrograph than after the flo! od had crested; I understand that this is fairly typical.

Most of our sampling sites were at bridges. Safety concerns involved safe parking and close attention to traffic while on the bridge. We wore orange safety vests and at night carried large flashlights. Another safety concern is fouling of the sampling bucket by moving logs or other large debris; one must make sure one does not accidentally have a foot or arm tangled in or attached to the bucket line in case the bucket be swept away by a fast-moving log.

With best regards,
(David J. Wilson)

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004 16:06:08 -0700
From: “Shilling, Fraser”
Subject: [volmonitor] RE: volmonitor digest: April 16, 2004

Eleanor et al.

I have worked for several years with a citizens monitoring program in the Sierra Nevada — the Yuba River Monitoring Program, run by the South Yuba River Citizens League. I helped develop protocols, sites, parameters, SYRCL carries out logistics and “owns” the program. In this case, a decision to conduct storm event sampling is tied to objective consideration of rate of rainfall (>0.5″/24 hr) while also being a bit seat of the pants about it. First flush is the event that gets the most attention, with successively less attention for similar storms as the winter goes on. A team of about 10 or 12 (out of 100 volunters) goes out in pairs (usually) to 5 or 6 sites that have been pre-selected and that are near their homes. Sampling is usually a one time thing at or soon after storm peak. A couple of times there has been time series at particular sites (e.g., Humbug Creek, originating from the Malakoff Diggins abandoned mine). Measurements are taken of temperature, conductivity, DO, and pH. Samples are always taken for sediment and, depending on the site, metals, E. coli, Enterococcus sp., oil and grease. The storm-event volunteers are a combination of storm-only and regular river monitors (those who go out monthly). All have gone through extensive monitoring training, including river safety. Often the storm samplers are avid water people who enjoy dark, cold, blowing conditions. The program coordinators are cc’d here.

Fraser shilling
UC Davis

Question 2

From: “Dustan Compton”
Sent: Friday, September 10, 2004 10:15 AM
Subject: [volmonitor] Storm Water Sampling

Hello to all,

My name is Dustan Compton and I am in charge of a volunteer source water monitoring program. My problem is that I have been researching manual first flush and composite storm water sampling for volunteers but have been unable to find documents that pertain to an operating procedure to conduct the sampling. There are many examples of other volunteer programs but does anyone have guidelines or procedures to conduct a first flush sampling event? Any help would be appreciated.

Dustan Compton

Responses to Question 2

Date: Tue, 14 Sep 2004 16:59:40 -0700
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Storm Water Sampling

A couple of comments Re: storm drain sampling:

1. If anyone is interested in reading the technical summary report from the Russian River First Flush storm sampling event, it can be found at (note — this event was covered in an article in the Summer 2004 issue of The Volunteer Monitor newsletter, which is available online at

2. In response to Carolyn’s comment below (“We were not able to find any samplers we could leave in place that we thought would do the job, and be affordable, too”) — I am wondering if you saw the article on the low-cost storm event sampler in that same issue of the newsletter, and if so, I’m curious as to why it would not meet your needs.


Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112


Date: Wed, 15 Sep 2004 08:30:56 -0700
From: Renee Rose
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Storm Water Sampling


I’m not sure if you’ve found the information you’ve been looking for, but you could start by checking out a publication from the Washington State Department of Ecology (publication #02-10-071)- try this link: “How To Do Stormwater Sampling: A guide for industrial facilities”

It may or may not have what you’re looking for. I used it when I started a volunteer water sampling program. Let me know if you find something better- I’m always interested in learning more!

Good luck,


Date: Wed, 15 Sep 2004 12:08:14 -0700
From: Steve Cochrane
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: First Flush

The Monterey Bay National marine Sanctuary program has a great model to learn from and apply to first flush.
Steve Cochrane


Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2004 13:49:39 -0400
From: Dennis
Subject: [volmonitor] Re: Storm Water Sampling

Dear Ellie (and Jerry),

Thank you for the info about the article from Russian River. We started sampling last year, before this article was out, but I’m afraid we couldn’t have used their kind of sampler, anyway. We are taking our samples straight out of the storm drain (and then again after the water has passed through a Stormceptor and infiltration tank). We are also sampling for bacteria, so we need to be able to snag our samples and drive them to the lab right away. If we used an automated sampler like that we would not know at what time the samples were taken.

I’d like to find another way to check bacteria levels during a storm without having the time restriction. Anyone know if there are any handy studies out there on the correlation between bacteria and other less-time restricted parameters, like TSS?


Question 3

Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 09:20:33 -0700
Subject: [volmonitor] volunteer monitoring during storm

Does anyone have suggestions/experiences for storm event monitoring – specifically recruitment and commitment from volunteers on short notice. What has worked well? The challenges? Suggestions to get sampling done in a timely manner during/after a storm event? We, at the Yamhill Basin Council, in Oregon will soon be doing monitoring
for pesticides and other water quality parameters and face the challenge of getting our samples during storm events. Any advice or suggestions and stories of your experience would be greaty appreciated.

Denise Schmit
Water Quality Monitoring Tech
Yamhill Basin Council
McMinnville, OR


Responses to Question 3

Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 09:58:47 -0700
From: Eleanor Ely
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] volunteer monitoring during storm events experiences/suggestions?

Denise (and others on the listserv):

There is a good article about storm event sampling in the Russian Riverwatershed (Northern California) in the Summer 2004 issue of the Volunteer Monitor newsletter (article starts on page 8). You can find this and otherback issues of the newsletter in PDF format at http://

People with experience in stormwater monitoring include Don McEnhill,Russian Riverkeeper,, and Bridget Hoover, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, bhoover@monitoring They would probably be happy to help you out.


Eleanor Ely
Editor, The Volunteer Monitor Newsletter
50 Benton Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112


Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2006 11:47:32 -0400
From: Carolyn Sibner
Subject: [volmonitor] volunteer monitoring during storm
To: Volunteer water monitoring

Depending on how far you are from the sites where you will be monitoring, I would also recommend you find people near those sites who can give you a call when it starts raining and the conditions are right for monitoring.

I found being even a relatively close distance of 10 miles away was far enough of a distance away that when it was raining at my office it wasn’t necessarily raining at the monitoring sites, and vice versa, (unless of course it was a large, wide-spread, storm of some duration).

We found it very difficult to find 72 hours of dry weather before sampling, plus a storm of sufficient size and duration, that also occurred early enough in the day that we could get samples collected and to the lab before 5p.m.

However, if you don’t include parameters that need to be analyzed within 4-6 hours like our bacteria samples, then that should open up your window of sampling opportunity quite a bit.

Here in New England I found the storms that were the residuals from hurricanes down south provided good rainstorms up here that were long and steady and didn’t necessarily have the lightning that accompanies our typical afternoon summer thunderstorms.

I also found that people who are retired often are the ones most able to help on short notice. They can be real gems for volunteer monitoring!

Hope this helps,

Carolyn W. Sibner
Housatonic Valley Association
South Lee, MA 01260

Question 4

From: Rich Schrader (
Date: Aug 20, 2012

The City of Santa Fe is installing stormwater infiltration structures on some of its main streets near public parks. They want to get an idea of how effective the structures are in increasing soil moisture in the parks, particularly where they don’t actively irrigate. They are also interested in measuring decreases in pollutants reaching the stream. My primary interest is in the first question — soil moisture. But if you have experience in monitoring before/after stormwater quality, I’d be interested in that too.

Do you have experience in measuring soil moisture? If yes, what devices are you using? We’re interested in low-cost devices and methods but good in effectiveness.

What are some good indicators in stormwater quality?

Rich Schrader
River Source
cell/work: 505-660-7928
River Source – data sharing for citizen scientists

Responses to Question 4

From: Travis Pritchard (
Date: Aug 22, 2012


I have used these in the past, and they worked really well. Very easy to install and when partnered with their datalogger, they can give a good idea of moisture over a storm event.



Travis Pritchard
Water Quality Lab Manager
San Diego Coastkeeper®
(o) 619-758-7743 x115
(c) 530-219-5271

Question 5

Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2008 19:59:39 +0000
From: Patricia Aitken

Subject: [volmonitor] Parking Lots Impact on Water Quality

Does anyone have information on the impact a parking lot may make on water quality – amount of runoff, chemical contamation, etc?

Responses to Question 5

Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2008 14:11:43 -0600
Subject: Re: [volmonitor] Parking Lots Impact on Water Quality


There is a training/certification program here in Minnesota that targets salt application. The website is for more information is:

Good Luck!

Mary Karius
Hennepin County Environmental Services
417 N. 5th Street, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55401


Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2008 14:02:13 -0800
From: Tommy Liddell


Although only related to PAHs in parking lot runoff, I have found this site to be quite useful.


Tommy Liddell
Water Quality Analyst
Ventura County Watershed Protection District
Water & Environmental Resources Division
800 S. Victoria Avenue
Ventura, CA 93009-1610
(805) 662-6758
(805) 654-2108 fax


Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2008 15:09:55 -0800
From: Erick Burres

You may find information at any of the Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) programs, here is the link for California Additional finding are within Low Impact Development (LID) projects. Look also for “sweeping” as it relates to land uses.

Question 6

Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2008 15:13:30 -0500
From: Ronald Ohrel
Subject: [volmonitor] Correlating storm drain stencils with WQ improvement

Hello Everyone:

Please see the email below. I can’t recall any studies that attempt to show direct correlation between storm drain stenciling projects and improved water quality, but I may be wrong. Can anyone direct me to such studies?


Ron Ohrel

Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2008 22:27:28 -0500
Subject: storm drain question

I am working with another resident in my village to start a storm drain stenciling project in Kings Contrivance. We’re making our case to the Board in about 3 weeks and I’m trying to put a presentation (use that term loosely) together. I was hoping to find some type of evidence/research/hard numbers that showed painting “Don’t Dump” on storm drains actually led to less waste in local watersheds. Ideally, I’d find an article that said “CIty XYZ painted ‘Don’t Dump’ on storm drains and watershed waste levels dropped 50 percent.” So far I haven’t found that. There are mostly wonderful statements like, “Storm drain stenciling creates community awareness and encourages people to think twice before dumping waste in storm drains.” I agree with that, but when you are asking for money and permission to deface public property that argument might not hold up so well. Do you know of any groups or agencies that have actually monitored waste levels in this way? I checked the CBF website and didn’t find any specific numbers. Any leads would be helpful.

Responses to Question 6

Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2008 14:12:45 -0700
From: “Horn, Barb”

My guess is you won’t find any – and that is because we collectively in our efforts have not HAD to measure actual water quality improvements to get funding for this type of project. We don’t think about measurable results. In addition, we also have been operating on the false assumption that knowledge will change behavior and that will result in cleaner water. The community based social marketing movement has proven, scientifically that this old environmental assumption from awareness to attitude to behavior change is magic and all we have to do is increase awareness to get change. Not true. People often know what to do, and even want to do it, but simply have to many barriers to “do” whatever is the right thing. CBSM is a scientific way to determine the barriers to specific behavior you want changed, then you design your information and education outreach at those behaviors (like no oil changes on driveways), not the end effect we want (cleaner water). Finally, the last thing we don’t do well is actually design monitoring efforts to answer specific questions – my guess is very little monitoring has ever occurred in conjunction with one of these storm drain marking efforts. We all need to do a better job at creating a story to tell — its not that what we are doing is not necessarily effective, but we really don’t know we assume. Check out CBSM, take a class or two if you can. It may save your program.

Barb Horn
Water Resource Specialist
Colorado Division of Wildlife
151 E 16th Ave
Durango, CO 81301
Vc: 970.382.6667
Fx: 970.247.4785


Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2008 15:32:27 -0600
From: Steven Witmer
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Correlating storm drain stencils with WQ improvement

This may be of some use, although it doesn’t have exactly the information you’re looking for. It does discuss the impact on public awareness based on a study done by the University of Wisconsin, though.



Yes, I have copies of the UW study, though it’s about social impacts
water quality impacts. I can send a copy to interested parties.

Kris Stepenuck
Wisconsin Volunteer Stream Monitoring Coordinator
445 Henry Mall, Rm 202
Madison, WI 53706-1577
Phone: 608-265-3887
Fax: 608-262-2031


Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2008 06:02:41 -0700 (PDT)
From: Kelly Stettner
Subject: RE: [volmonitor] Correlating storm drain stencils with WQ improvement

A fascinating (and very telling) little tidbit appeared on a weblog that I visit regularly called “Water Words That Work” by Erik Eckl. Seems a community group stencilled the storm drains in their area, and thought they’d get the message out by hitting every other drain. A few weeks later, one of the volunteers noticed a man walking from drain to drain with a bucket of used engine oil from his truck. He finally stopped, announcing “Ah, ha — I found one that DOESN’T drain to the river!”

Black River Action Team (BRAT)
45 Coolidge Road
Springfield, VT 05156


Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2008 17:27:15 -0500
From: Linda Green


I heartily recommend that folks check out to learn better how to get across the message we are trying to. Specifically about storm drains, check out this link to a funny, but unfortunately apparently true story. It doesn’t answer your question, or does it….


Linda Green
URI Watershed Watch Program Director
URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality
College of the Environment and Life Sciences
CIK, 1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881-0804