Montana Department of Environmental Quality About Us Permitting & Operator Assistance Public Participation

Monitoring & Assessment

Program Overview

DEQ’s Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Section assesses whether state waters meet water quality standards and support beneficial uses. Beneficial use assessment is one step in the water quality planning process; it requires monitoring and informs Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and water quality protection and restoration. Tracking changes in water quality may also be important to determine if conditions are improving or deteriorating over time. DEQ supports numerous professional and volunteer monitoring partnerships across Montana that align with our vision.

DEQ monitors chemical, physical, and biological properties of our state’s rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. High quality data is necessary to support decision-making. DEQ monitors water quality to:

  • Educate people about water quality;
  • Inform watershed restoration and protection plans;
  • Track trends in water quality;
  • Investigate water quality problems, threats, and improvements;
  • Assess whether waters meet water quality standards and support beneficial uses;
  • Evaluate sources of pollution;
  • Support studies that determine total maximum daily load (TMDL) development;
  • Establish baseline conditions;
  • Develop water quality standards.

Monitoring & Assessment Contacts

Section Supervisor
Darrin Kron (406) 444-4765

Volunteer Monitoring | Water Quality Scientist
Abbie Ebert (406) 444-5390

Water Quality Scientist
Gabrielle Metzner (406) 444-2709

Water Quality Scientist
Blake Towarnicki (406) 444-2838

Monitoring Scientist
Ella Bushnell (406) 444-7450

Data Assistance
Deanna Tarum (406) 444-2478

Field Tech, Field Equipment
Elise Thiel (406) 444-3507

Database Analyst
Jane Madison (406) 444-3409

Across Montana, trained volunteers monitor water quality in our rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. Volunteer monitoring is a fun and effective tool to educate people about protecting water quality and to engage communities in pollution prevention and restoration. Volunteer monitoring programs are administered by watershed groups, conservation districts, water quality protection districts, non-profit organizations, schools, and other entities. DEQ also provides volunteer monitoring opportunities.

Each volunteer monitoring program is driven by a unique set of monitoring objectives. Volunteers may collect chemical, physical, or biological parameters to evaluate water quality, aquatic habitat, and streamflow. Whether they collect high-quality data for decision-making, or monitor solely for educational purposes, DEQ values the contribution of volunteer monitoring programs.

DEQ’s Volunteer Monitoring Support Program supports volunteer monitoring in several ways:

  • Financial support, such as our Volunteer Monitoring Lab Analysis Program;
  • Technical support, such as trainings and guidance documents;
  • Administering volunteer monitoring opportunities; and
  • Forming partnerships with other entities in the state that also support volunteer monitoring.

Volunteer Monitoring Lab Analysis Support Program

Each year, DEQ seeks applications for up to $5,500 from volunteer monitoring programs seeking financial assistance with laboratory sample analysis and shipping costs associated with water quality monitoring projects. Applicants are required to submit an application, a Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP), and an analytical budget which matches their funding request. This program is for laboratory analysis and sample shipping costs only and does not include funding for Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP) development, travel, monitoring time, purchasing and maintaining field equipment, or other operational costs. All data that is collected using these funds must be uploaded by the awardee to DEQ’s water quality database (MT-eWQX).

2024 Call for Applications

Volunteer Monitoring Guidance & Resources

Monitoring Planning
  • To inquire about equipment available for loan, contact DEQ’s Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment program (406-444-3507) or MSU Extension Water Quality program (406-994-7381)
Quality Assurance/Quality Control and Data Management
Volunteer Monitoring Support Partners

Beneficial use assessment of Montana's rivers, streams, and lakes is tied to goals of the federal Clean Water Act and the Montana Water Quality Act which require states to:

  • Assign designated uses to waters and develop water quality standards to protect those uses;
  • Monitor and assess water quality;
  • List impaired waters that do not meet standards;
  • Identify pollutant sources and set pollutant-reduction goals needed to achieve standards.

DEQ uses available data to assess water quality based on established water quality standards and reports on the status and trends of water quality every two years in Montana’s Water Quality Report and List of Impaired Surface Waters.

Maps & Media

Volunteer Monitoring Support Program
Smith River Algae Study