Staff successfully deploy trail cameras to monitor stream levels, proving cost-effective method that will help inform stream management efforts.
For all living organisms on Earth, the presence of water means life, and the absence of it means death. That’s especially true for organisms that spend their entire lives in water.
For many fish species, like the brook trout, a healthy stream provides the setting for the full range of its life activity- shelter, food, and reproduction. They require the whole stream to provide the right setting for each activity, from deep slower-moving pools, to shallow, fast-moving “riffles,” and for there to be enough water in the stream to connect all of these habitats. When a stream becomes too dry, the habitats shrink and become disconnected. Fish might not be able to perform critical life functions and will die or fail to reproduce. The cause of the low water levels can be man-made interventions such as dams or water withdrawals, or natural phenomena such as the significant drought we are currently experiencing.
Stream connectivity during droughts is one of many concerns for staff in the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)’s Water Planning and Management Division. When a stream is completely dry, the impact is obvious, but in areas where there is some flow but not as much as should be there, the impacts become harder to quantify. One way the United States Geological Survey measures streamflow discharge is through operating gaging stations that cost approximately $20,000–$25,000 to install with an annual operation and maintenance cost of $15,000.
Because of the limited network of these gaging stations, DEEP staff came up with an interesting (and less expensive) workaround in 2017—from July to October, at a cost of roughly $500 per unit, they deployed digital “trail” cameras at seven “study”