Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP)

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Program Description

SWAMP Program Logo

SWAMP is a statewide monitoring effort designed to assess the conditions of surface waters throughout the State of California. The SWAMP program was first established in year 2000 by the State Water  Resources Control Board.

For the purposes of SWAMP, “ambient” monitoring refers to any activity in which information about the status of the physical, chemical, and/or biological characteristics of the environment is collected to answer specific questions about the status and trends in water quality and/or beneficial uses of water.

The primary objectives of ambient surface water monitoring at the Lahontan Region are:

  • to determine (to the extent to which funding is available) whether ambient water quality at selected sites is in compliance with the chemical and physical water quality objectives contained in the Water Quality Control Plan for the Lahontan Region (Basin Plan) and the “California Toxics Rule.”
  • to determine (to the extent to which funding is available) whether water flowing from California into the State of Nevada meets Nevada’s water quality objectives.
  • to develop and implement (to the extent to which funding is available) tools to assess the biological integrity of the Region's streams and rivers based on instream benthic macroinvertebrate and algae assemblages.

The SWAMP Program Fact Sheet provides more information on the Goals, Accomplishments, and Performance Targets.

For more information about the statewide SWAMP, see the State Water Board's SWAMP website.

Currently available SWAMP reports, data, protocols, and staff contact information for the Lahontan Region are summarized below.


All reports produced and/or funded (in whole or in part) by the Lahontan Region’s SWAMP program are available below. The reports are organized according to the following categories:

Region-wide & Watershed Assessment Reports

Methods and Tools for Stream & River Bioassessment

Restoration Project Evaluations

BMP Effectiveness Monitoring

Sediment Assessment Reports

Other SWAMP Reports for the Lahontan Region


  • Raw data generated by the SWAMP program is posted on the California Environmental Data Exchange Network (CEDEN) as soon as quality assurance checks are complete. To access the data, please visit CEDEN and use the query tools to access regional SWAMP data.

  • SWAMP Summary Report, 2000-2005
    Lahontan Water Board SWAMP staff has prepared an assessment report for years 2000-2005. The report summarizes comparisons of SWAMP results to regulatory criteria contained in the Lahontan Basin Plan, California Toxics Rule, California Primary MCLs and California Secondary MCLs.

Resources for Regional Data Collectors - Data Management, QAPPs, and SOPs

Data Management

The California Environmental Data Exchange Network (CEDEN) provides a central location to store surface water quality data for California waterbodies. Created by the State Board with support from the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP), CEDEN helps aggregate multiple data sets, so these data are accessible to environmental managers and the public.

Currently data uploaded into CEDEN for the Lahontan Water Board is comprised of 1) ambient water quality data collected by the regional SWAMP team, (2) monitoring data associated with projects in the Lahontan Region funded through contracts and grants, which require data reporting to CEDEN, (3) data generated by researchers, citizen monitors, and watershed groups, which though not required to upload into CEDEN, otherwise report data so it may be used for water quality assessment and/or made public, and (4) data related to implementation of the Lake Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load.

To optimize sharing of surface water quality information, data collectors throughout the Lahontan Region are encouraged to store and share data in the CEDEN system.

Resources for Regional Data Collectors - Uploading Data into CEDEN

Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs)

To produce data that are scientifically valid and defensible, water quality monitoring projects should prepare and implement a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). Data uploaded to CEDEN must be accompanied by a QAPP in order to be considered during routine water quality assessments conducted by Regional Water Boards. In accordance with The Water Quality Control Policy for Developing California’s Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List (Listing Policy), a QAPP or equivalent, as described in section 6.1.4 of the Listing Policy is required to determine the quality of the data and information being used for assessment.

A QAPP establishes quality assurance and quality control standards and procedures for a given monitoring project and ensures that data are of known and documented quality. A QAPP specifies the QA/QC methods and processes to be used for the field and laboratory portions of the project. Individuals and entities conducting water quality monitoring can utilize the guidance documents and example QAPPs provided below to understand the elements that should be included when preparing a quality assurance project plan.

Resources for Regional Data Collectors – Preparing a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standardized procedures have been developed for field and laboratory work associated with water quality monitoring programs. To collect samples that accurately represent the water bodies being monitored and to obtain scientifically defensible results, monitoring programs should follow standard operating procedures (SOPs). An SOP is defined as a written document that details the method of an operation, analysis, or action with techniques and procedures that are thoroughly prescribed for performing certain routine or repetitive tasks (FEM, 2012).The State Board’s SWAMP Program has posted various SOPs that may be implemented by individual and organizations conducting water quality monitoring. Many SOPs are reviewed and updated yearly or as needed.

Resources for Regional Data Collectors – Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Fish Tissue Info & Resources for the Lahontan Region

Protocols for Bioassessment & Habitat Assessment

  • Protocols for SWAMP bioassessment methods
    The SWAMP program has published protocols and guidance to be used for most ambient bioassessments of perennial wadeable streams in California. Those protocols (for both benthic macroinvertebrates and algae), along with field forms and other bioassessment publications and tools are available at the State Water Board’s bioassessment webpage.
  • Other protocols 
    It is important to note that, while the above protocols will be used in many situations, a variety of different protocols may be used or required in the Lahontan Region. For example, different taxonomic effort may be needed for some projects. Whenever bioassessment sampling is required by the Regional Water Board, the methods will be specified.
  • Protocols for UC-SNARL method 
    For projects that rely on the UC-SNARL methodology (developed in the 1990s), the Quality Assurance Project Plan for that method remains available at this website.