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A key component of the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) is the development, implementation, and maintenance of the monitoring infrastructure (e.g., indicators, methods, quality assurance/quality control [QA/QC], and data management) necessary to support a robust monitoring program while also fostering data comparability and collaboration with monitoring partners. This page provides access to those tools.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance (QA) is an integrated system of management activities (i.e., planning, implementation, assessment, reporting, and quality improvement) that focuses on providing confidence in the data or product by ensuring that it is of the type and quality needed and expected by the client.

The State Water Resources Control Board Quality Assurance/Quality Control website

The key components of the SWAMP QA program are: the Quality Assurance Program Plan (QAPrP), QA Project Plans (QAPPs), and other QA Resources (including QA training, a Help Desk and the SWAMP QA team).

SWAMP Quality Assurance Program Plan

  • QAPrP describes SWAMP's quality system including elements such as; responsibilities of management and staff; as well as quality control and sample handling guidelines for both laboratory and field activities.
SWAMP-funded projects, and projects required to be consistent with SWAMP, must follow the guidelines of the SWAMP QAPrP.
  • Quality Assurance Memos
    Changes to policies and procedures related to SWAMP quality assurance (QA) are often documented in the form of programmatic memos.

Quality Assurance Project Plans

  • A QAPP is required for certain large, ongoing, or special projects. To streamline the creation of these documents, SWAMP encourages the use of the following resources:
  • The following resources provide additional assistance with SWAMP comparability:
    • SWAMP Comparability Webinars – an archive of past presentations intended for those seeking programmatic QA comparability.
    • SWAMP QA Help Desk – a telephone and email service that provides support and tools for SWAMP-comparable projects.

Examples of Quality Assurance Project Plans

Quality Assurance Process and Guidance Documents

  • Corrective Action (updated 03/06/12)
    A PDF document that describes the process followed by SWAMP to document, resolve, and follow-up on corrective actions associated with programmatic samples. The process is based on the SWAMP Corrective Action Form, and is applied to sample results that fail to meet the technical and non-technical requirements of SWAMP and its associated projects.
  • Data Classification System (updated 06/17/10)
    A PDF document that describes the process used by the Quality Assurance Team (QAT) and Data Management Team (DMT) to classify data batches and sample results that will be included in the SWAMP database. Classifications are based on the requirements specified in the QAPrP.
  • Help Desk Review of Quality Assurance Project Plans (updated 05/02/11)
    A PDF document that describes the process used by the SWAMP Help Desk to review the quality assurance project plans (QAPPs) of projects seeking SWAMP comparability. The review may include consultation with the Help Desk, and produces a completed checklist and narrative that may be used to make QAPP updates prior to document approval.
  • Quality Systems Assessment for Contract Laboratories (updated 07/01/10)
    A PDF document that details the process used by the QAT to conduct assessments of SWAMP contract laboratories. During these assessments, procedures, personnel, and facilities are evaluated against QAPrP guidelines.
  • Review of Program-funded Quality Assurance Project Plans (updated 04/13/11)
    A PDF document that describes the process used by the QAT to review the QAPPs associated with SWAMP-funded projects. The review may include consultation with the QAT, and produces a completed checklist and narrative that may be used to make QAPP updates prior to document approval.

Methods and Standard Operating Procedures

In order to be SWAMP-comparable, bioassessment sampling (benthic macroinvertebrates and algae) must be conducted according to SWAMP’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) (links provided below). There are no other SWAMP-mandated field methods. Additional resources regarding field methods are provided for informational purposes.

Methods for Conducting Bioassessments in Freshwater Streams and Rivers

SWAMP Field Methods Course

The SWAMP Field Methods Course is now complete with the addition of Module 7: Biological & Physical Assessments (Modules 1-6 date from November 2005). This narrated video course introduces the concepts used in SWAMP sample collection and field analysis. The course now includes the following seven modules: Reconnaissance, Water Quality Measurements, Flow Measurements, Water Sampling, Sediment Sampling, Sample Handling and Shipping, and Biological & Physical Assessments. Get more information on how to view this course online or to request a copy of the course on CDs.

Standard Operating Procedures for Conducting Field Measurements

California Rapid Assessment Method for Wetlands (CRAM)

Analysis of Pyrethroid Insecticides in Surface Water & Sediments

Techniques for Preventing the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

Indicators and Water Quality Goals

  • Water Quality Indicators - include tools for assessment of chemical, physical and biological conditions and processes.
  • Read more about the criteria and considerations for selecting appropriate Water Quality Indicators
  • View a List of Potential Indicators and their associated beneficial use
  • A Compilation of Water Quality Goals - Numeric water quality thresholds from the literature for over 860 chemical constituents and water quality parameters. The text of the report explains, with examples, how these thresholds may be used to assess protection of beneficial uses of water resources in the context of California's quality standards. A summary of relevant statutes, regulations, plans, and policies and links to original references are included.

Tools for Citizen Monitors

The SWAMP’s Clean Water Team (CWT) is the citizen monitoring program of the State Water Resources Control Board. Its mission is to build and support the State’s Watersheds Stewardship through involvement in citizen monitoring in order to reduce and prevent water pollution. The Clean Water Team’s Citizen Monitoring Coordinator provides technical assistance, training, data management consultation, and outreach and education to citizen monitoring organizations. Get more information concerning the Clean Water Team.

Clean Water Team Guidance Compendium for Watershed Monitoring and Assessment

The purpose of this Compendium is to enhance the user’s knowledge and ability to make decisions regarding measurements of water quality in various water body types. It should be useful to field operators conducting water quality monitoring, technical advisors and trainers of citizen monitoring groups, agency staff, or any other person interested in water quality issues.

Clean Water Team’s Tool Box for Citizen Monitoring Programs

In addition to the Clean Water Team's Guidance Compendium for Watershed Monitoring and Assessment, the Tool Box has template files and documents that will help citizen monitors manage and organize their water quality monitoring data.

Data Management

The SWAMP Database

A standardized data management, evaluation and reporting system, which serves as the mechanism for data sharing among project participants. The database was designed to ensure both the comparability and quality of the data, so that SWAMP data can be used effectively in assessing the quality of the State’s waters. Specific documentation and additional information about the SWAMP Database can be found at the Marine Pollution Studies Laboratory at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Website. Compliance with the SWAMP Data Management Plan is required in order to be SWAMP-comparable.

The California Environmental Data Exchange Network (CEDEN)

A distributed data system, comprised of a number of Regional Data Centers, designed to facilitate integration and sharing of data collected by many different participants. CEDEN’s mission is to simplify and improve access to California’s water resource monitoring data by providing services that integrate, standardize, and display data from a diverse array of monitoring and data management efforts. CEDEN serves as the venue through which SWAMP data are made available to the public.

Archived Tools

Indices of Biotic Integrity - Tools based on benthic macroinvertebrates.

For bioassessment field methods, lab methods, quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) methods, and taxonomic conventions, see Bioassessment Methods.