Our waterways are the veins of our communities, connecting the highest mountain basins above Silverton and Telluride to the lower valleys of Farmington and beyond. Help us understand the health of our waterways, and how they change with events including the Gold King Mine spill and 416 Fire.


Benthic Macroinvertebrates (BMIs)

Macroinvertebrates, or river bugs, tell us a lot about stream water quality because of their various sensitivities to different pollutants, dissolved oxygen levels, pHs and temperatures. Help us monitor stream health by looking for these aquatic critters.

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Abiotic Water Quality Data

Don’t have time or resources to look for bugs? You can look directly at water quality by measuring pH, conductivity, discharge, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, or other parameters.


Acid Mine Drainage Chemistry Lab - Lead your students through a hands-on exploration of how acid mine drainage and three solutions: mitigation, active remediation, and passive remediation

Field Trip Templates

Sample “Water Quality Comparison” Field Trip - Plan a trip to a local, impacted water way and compare it to a stream or river that has NOT been impacted. In this model, students break up into two groups for smaller numbers and take turns looking at biotic and abiotic water quality parameters.

Data Sheets

Bridging Mountains Network Online Data Form - Contribute to MSI’s Bridging Mountains Network (BMN) using this online datasheet. Using Survey123, MSI provides an opportunity for students to contribute to a larger network of data from around the San Juans. Data can be submitted from a smart phone or desktop. The datasheet follows the paper data-sheet below

BMN Water Quality Datasheet - This catch-all water quality datasheet records abiotic water quality parameters on one side and biotic (BMI) parameters on the other. This datasheet can be used in the field, then transcribed into our online form above. NOTE: If you want to use BMI’s to calculate the ‘biotic index’, also print the ‘BMI Water Quality Index Worksheet’ below.

BMI Water Quality Index Worksheet - Use BMI’s to calculate the relative health of your waterway.

Additional Resources and Links

Our Animas - This 2019 publication by the Animas River Community Forum is a great tool for place-based learning about the Animas river. Check it out!

USGS: National Water Information System - The United States Geological Survey monitors water quality and quantity all over the country. Find your local waterway here.

Basic tips - for teaching BMIs

BMI Identification Key: Spanish & English

Wonderful, Wacky, Water Critters - A great guide to benthic macro-invertebrates. Includes information about life cycles, predation, an other adaptations.