First Flush Water Quality Monitoring (HBWQIP)

Location: Humboldt Bay Watershed
Humboldt County, CA
Cooperating Agencies: City of Arcata, City of Eureka Wastewater Treatment Lab, Salmon Forever, the Humboldt Bay Watershed Advisory Committee, Northcoast Environmental Center, North Coast Laboratories, Eureka Municipal Golf Course
Funding Sources: State Water Resources Control Board

Volunteer water quality monitoring has become an integral part of the effort to assess the health of our nation's waters. It promotes stewardship of local waters, and provides an educational tool to teach citizens about the importance of environmental quality. In addition, government agencies have found that properly run volunteer programs can provide high quality information to supplement their own monitoring programs.

First Flush is a volunteer water quality monitoring event that seeks to test the water quality of urban creeks and streams during the first significant storm of the year. The results of this test describe a summer's worth of pollution concentrated and collected before being flushed downstream. First Flush events are typically complete with Quality Assurance/Quality Control procedures and trainings for volunteers. The goals of a First Flush event are:
to characterize the runoff in different parts of the watershed and to identify sources of potential pollutants;
to educate the community regarding water pollution; and
to help citizens, local agencies, and regulators prioritize future management options.

In 2004, First Flush for Humboldt Bay occured on the evening of October 8th. NRS was able to train approximately 30 volunteers prior to the event and these volunteers were broken into small groups that were able to perform first flush monitoring on the following Humboldt Bay Tributaries:
Martin Slough, Eureka (3 stations)
Janes Creek and McDaniel Slough, Arcata (3 stations)

The First Flush event was triggered by heavy rains and increased flows in the urban
creeks that were being monitored. According to
The staff of Streamline Planning Consultants sample water from Janes Creek at 11th Street in Arcata.
the NOAA rain gage on Woodley Island in Eureka there was .87 inches and the rain gage at the airport in McKinleyville had .66 inches in five hours. Teams tested about 4 hours after the storm event began.

NRS' partnership with the Eureka Municipal Golf Course was a major factor in making the First Flush event a success. Martin Slough flows through the golf course and NRS was allowed access to golf course facilities and the slough itself in order to perform the monitoring. The golf course also hosted one of the First Flush training events. Eureka's Municipal Golf Course is currently working to achieve certification under The Audubon Society's Green Certification Program and become a recognized environmentally safe habitat for birds and other wildlife. Assistance with the event was also provided by the Northcoast Environmental Center, the City of Eureka Wastewater Treatment Lab, the City of Arcata, and North Coast Laboratories.

NRS employee Nicole Murano leads a training about First Flush monitoring procedures on Martin Slough in Eureka. Don Roller (far right) is in charge of the Audobon Green Certification program at the City of Eureka Municipal Golf Course.
The parameters that were monitored at the sites included flow, temperature, pH, and conductivity. There were also samples from each site sent to local laboratories to test for turbidity, suspended sediment concentration, nitrates, ortho-phosphates, metals, oil and grease, and bacteria (total and fecal). The monitoring results will be shared with the State Water Resources Control Board; the Regional Water Quality Control Board; and other federal, state, and local agencies and organizations requesting the information. Please check back to this page soon to see the test results from First Flush.

To review RCAA's First Flush Quality Assurance Project Plan for this project click here. (PDF file, 609 KB)

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Last updated: April 14, 2005