Stream Study Banner

Water can travel thousands of miles from where it lands as raindrop to where it spills into the ocean. Along the way it passes through our parks, neighborhoods, and communities in the form of streams and rivers. By observing these streams and rivers, we can learn a lot about the climate, the landscape, and human impact. Use this activity to monitor any creek, stream, or river near you.

Water Level

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Water Level Diagram - 1. Very Low; 2. Low; 3. Normal; 4. High; 5. Very High


Just how high does the water go? Is it high or is it low? If it's rained, it's running high. If there's drought, it's running dry. How steep are the banks? How close to the water are trees growing? These can be clues to show that the water is higher or lower than normal.

Use the diagram to determine the current water level of the stream and record it below.

What number best matches the water level today (1-5)?

Water Color

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The color of a river can be caused by a number of things, from sediments and minerals in the water to even the water’s speed. Fast water over rocks tends to be bluer than slow water in marshy places.

What color is the water of the stream today?

Water Speed

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The speed of water changes depending on how much rain has fallen, the depth of the water, and the elevation change of the landscape. Water is always trying to flow from higher elevations to lower elevations.

1-Still     2-Slow     3-Fast     4-Raging

Which number best matches the speed of the water today?

Indicator Species

Some species only thrive in very clean water. By paying attention to the presence or absence of these indicator species, we can make some assumptions about the quality of the water. Can you find these indicator species?

Water Pollution

Humans can impact water quality in many negative ways. Carelessly tossing a plastic bottle can end up in a stream. Chemicals running off from farms or residential areas can cause harmful algae blooms. Oils from motor vehicles stick to the surface of water and follow it downstream. Do you see any evidence of human pollution?