By Shawna Castle, Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Coordinator
As the agency responsible for protecting Idaho's surface water, DEQ continually monitors and assesses the quality of the state's rivers, streams, and lakes. Since Idaho has more than 95,000 miles of rivers and streams and 100 lakes and reservoirs, this is no small task. How does all that monitoring get done? Our BURP crews!
DEQ’s Beneficial Use Reconnaissance Program (BURP) began as a pilot project in 1993. Ever since, BURP has helped Idaho meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act by providing data to use when assessing Idaho's water bodies.
Each summer, DEQ BURP technicians follow standardized procedures to collect aquatic insects, conduct fish surveys, measure water chemistry, and document habitat conditions in streams and rivers. BURP surveys are performed during the same time period each year so the information is comparable from one year to the next. Aquatic insects and fish are very sensitive to changes in water quality, so their presence, abundance, and health serve as indicators of the overall quality of a water body.
Most BURP technicians are college students from around the Pacific Northwest. Many spend multiple summers working on DEQ’s BURP crews, which are based out of our six regional offices. Before the monitoring season begins, all technicians and coordinators gather for centralized training. Training includes on-the-ground instruction in collection techniques and a review of the BURP field manual and current year's work plan.
After training in June, most of DEQ’s BURP crews are out for their first full week of monitoring this week. We always look forward to the energy and enthusiasm the BURP crews bring to DEQ each summer and are thankful for their hard work in supporting DEQ’s efforts to protect Idaho surface waters.
The Surface Water Program is responsible for ensuring Idaho's streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands meet their beneficial uses and Idaho water quality standards.