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The early detection of changes in watershed hydrology and channel geomorphology is critical to protecting and restoring our watersheds. Yet, appropriate data are rarely collected by either governmental or citizen-based monitoring programs. The Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) has successfully engaged volunteers in monitoring traditional metrics of biological, habitat, and water quality for 11 years. Although this information has been very useful in assessing the quality of the Huron River and tributary streams, we have found the addition of a program for hydrologic and channel shape monitoring to be necessary for two reasons. First, discharge and channel shape measurements have helped us identify habitat degradation (such as sedimentation and erosion) associated with channel adjustment to increasing impervious surfaces. Secondly, discharge and channel shape metrics help us observe the incremental changes in physical quality that often precede obvious deterioration in the stream biota, thus serving as an early warning system of the need for greater protection measures.

In 2002 HRWC trained volunteers to measure stream discharge and cross-sectional channel shape as part of an improvement project for a small urban stream. The goal of the study was to identify the causes of low biological diversity and to create a 10-year plan to improve the ecological integrity of the creek. The volunteers developed hydrographic data and geomorphic characterizations of the stream to evaluate the extent of destabilization and active channel adjustment in the creekshed. The data were also used to calibrate a hydrologic model (SWMM) for the creek and to develop improvement goals.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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