A Wade in DC’s Waters: Creating and maintaining an urban Rapid Stream Assessment Program

A Wade in DC’s Waters: Creating and maintaining an urban Rapid Stream Assessment Program

The District Dept. of Energy & Environment (DOEE)’s Rapid Stream Assessment (RSA) Program was created in order to address a new MS4 (stormwater) permit requirement as well as to provide a high-level evaluation of all wadable streams in the District.

Instead of selecting just 18 wadable stream sites as required by the permit, DOEE committed itself to physically walking the entire length of wadeable District streams (~100 miles!). Today, the RSA Program gathers over 60 pieces of conditionally relevant information are collected to characterize each of the stream segments in addition to several types of point features such as severe erosion, fish blockages, and crossings are also assessed. An online, interactive map and data dashboard makes all RSA data, including ~3,000 photographs, available to staff (and the public!) anytime, anywhere and has been used to help facilitate everything from large-scale watershed assessments to pinpointing potential pollutant sources.

By going ‘above and beyond’ the specified requirements in District’s Phase I MS4 permit, the RSA Program has identified pollution sources and environmental degradation stressors, partnered with DC Water for more timely infrastructure repair, helped to identify previously unmapped wetlands, ground-truthed their enhanced NHD dataset, grown the subject matter expertise of staff, and expanded the technical GIS capabilities of DOEE.

BUBBAs winner 2023!

Speaker Bio: Alicia Ritzenthaler (she/her) is an Environmental Protection Specialist at the District Dept. of Energy and Environment (DOEE). Whether conducting urban stream assessments, reporting on stormwater best management practices, or working on recreational water quality initiatives — all part of her regular day-to-day activities! — Alicia is invested in developing tools and strategies to promote improved data collection, apply scientific knowledge to decision-making, and share science with the public in engaging, meaningful ways. Currently responsible for leading the RSA program, Alicia has been involved in the program since its inception.