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Water Testing Project for the North Fork River. Water testing day is Tuesday May 17 th at the North Arm Trailhead. Physical Properties of a Watershed System. Stream Shape. Stream Flow. Stream Flow. The amount of water that flows past a specific point in a stream over a period of time.

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Water Testing Project for the North Fork River

Water testing day is Tuesday May 17th at the North Arm Trailhead.

stream flow

Stream Flow

The amount of water that flows past a specific point in a stream over a period of time.

natural influences that affect stream flow
Natural Influences that affect Stream Flow
  • Climate
  • Season
  • Watershed
  • Meandering
  • Substrate
  • Groundwater
  • Vegetation
human influences affecting stream flow
Human influences affecting stream flow



Land use

why do we care about stream flow
Why do we care about Stream Flow?
  • Water quality : affects turbidity (sediment load) and
  • dissolved oxygen
  • Aquatic life : creates different habitats for fish and bugs
  • Vegetation: needs overbank flooding for nutrients
  • Flooding: controlled for human structures
  • Water storage: determines how and when water
  • should be stored
method to measure calculate stream flow

Method to measure & calculate stream flow

1. Measure a 10 m section and mark it with rocks.

2. Throw a stick in above this section and use a stop watch to measure the time it takes the stick to travel the 10 m section 3 separate times. Average the times.

3. Divide the average time (sec) by the distance (10m) to get the velocity (m/s).

4. Measure the depth (m) & width(m) to find an area (m2).

5. Stream flow = velocity (m/sec) x area (m2)

what influences stream shape
What influences stream shape?
  • Substrate Type
  • Stream Channel Pattern
  • Riffle/ Run /Pool Ratio
substrate types

Substrate Types







method for recording observations of substrate
Method for Recording observations of substrate
  • Step into the stream, without looking bend down and pick up some sediment.
  • Tell your partner the type of substrate you are holding, have them record the type with a tally mark.
  • Take 50 samples in and along the river section.
  • Tally your total number of observations for each type of substrate.
  • Multiply the number of observations of each type by 2. This will equal the % out of 100 for each substrate.
top view of stream
Top View of Stream

Stream Channel Patterns

Cross-section view




meandering stream
Meandering Stream

Found in

valley bottoms

without much slope. Slower


Big pools,

some riffles and runs

Mixture of

sand bars

& suspended

silt particles.

straight stream
Straight Stream

Steep gradient, fast flowing

Substrate is predominantly cobble and gravel

Mostly runs some riffles

braided stream
Braided Stream

River continually splits

and rejoins. River moves

across broad flat

plains. Slow and

fast velocities.

Mostly runs and


Mixture of silt,

Sand, and gravel.


Riffles have high oxygen amounts essential for macroinvertabrates (bugs) and spawning fish.

Runs where fish feed and travel

Pools where fish hide and rest from the current

method for recording riffle run pool ratios
Method for Recording Riffle Run Pool Ratios

1. Take one step next to your river section, look across the river.

  • Record a tally mark on your sheet that shows if you see a river, run, or pool

3. Make 50 observations.

4. Total the tally for each characteristic.

5. Multiply the totals by 2 to find the % riffle, run or pool that your river section contains.

natural influences affecting stream shape

Natural Influences affecting Stream Shape

Friction created by substrate



human influences affecting stream shape
Human Influences affecting Stream Shape

Development, logging, mining, grazing can destroy vegetation which causes more water and sediment to drain directly into a stream rather than being filter through groundwater.

Channel alterations, ie. straightening of a stream along a highway or through a city center

Dams prevent downstream flooding but then stream nutrients are not distributed throughout the floodplain to plants.

why do we care about stream shape
Why do we care about stream shape?
  • Stream shape affects water quality

Straightening of a stream increases velocity, which results in higher erosion rates and more turbidity

Darker streams impact temperature and amount of sunlight that reaches plant life.

  • Stream shape affects habitat.

A straight stream does not have the variety of habitats found in a meandering stream

  • Stream shape impacts flooding
how will you interpret your results
How will you interpret your results?

Physical Characteristics of the river will be correlated to the chemical and biological parameters.

Some Examples:

Channel pattern and shape will effect velocity and erosion which will in turn effect temperature and oxygen and/or nutrients.

Substrate will be related to velocity and oxygen which will determine how many bugs are in the river.

Riffle/Run/Pool ratio will indicate the diversity of the aquatic habitats and in relation to this the diversity of life in the stream. High diversity correlates to high water quality.