SCCWRP transitioning new stream condition scoring tool to managers

Posted November 6, 2015
Calculating the health of a stream using the California Stream Condition Index requires use of a geospatial mapping tool that overlays the watershed with site-specific data on average annual precipitation, left, and geomorphic erodibility, right. Above, this tributary of the San Juan Creek watershed in Orange County encompasses a range of precipitation and erodibility patterns that help inform expectations about the biological condition of each of its stream segments.

SCCWRP and its partners have launched a series of outreach and training exercises to teach watershed managers how to use a new scoring tool for evaluating the biological health of streams across California.

The California Stream Condition Index, co-developed by SCCWRP, represents an important advancement in stream monitoring, allowing managers to generate condition scores using site-specific biological expectations that account for the stream’s unique environmental characteristics.

In October, the state’s Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) published a CSCI technical memo and accompanying instruction manual co-authored by SCCWRP that explains how to calculate index scores. Two peer-reviewed articles about the development of the CSCI, meanwhile, have been published as open-source journal articles in Freshwater Science, accessible here and here.

SCCWRP also has helped SWAMP build an interactive map to make CSCI scores for nearly 2,000 streams publicly accessible, prepared a two-page fact sheet for non-technical audiences, and co-hosted a workshop in September in Sacramento to train staff at regional boards, who, in turn, will train end users within their regions.

While SCCWRP’s short-term goal is to help the bioassessment community calculate CSCI scores with currently available tools (specifically, ArcGIS and the R statistical programming language), the ultimate goal is to make the process automated and thus accessible to a larger audience.

To that end, SCCWRP has been working with the State Water Board to build an automated, web-accessible CSCI calculator that can be used with minimal training and no software licensing requirements.

SCCWRP and SWAMP expect to release the CSCI calculator in late 2016.

More news related to: Bioassessment, Indices of Biotic Integrity