Training notes

New Zealand Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit

Notes for facilitators and trainers


Introduction....................................................................................................... 5.8

1.   Demonstrating SHMAK........................................................................... 5.10

2.   Selecting sites and monitoring............................................................. 5.21

3.   Training trainers........................................................................................ 5.22

Appendix 1. Benefits of stream monitoring........................................... 5.23

Appendix 2. Suggested information sheets on SHMAK.................... 5.25


These notes provide ideas and material to assist facilitators and trainers who are working with groups and individuals who are interested in setting up stream monitoring using the SHMAK methodology. The material provided may be copied, edited, etc. It is only intended to provide guidelines and ideas. We would welcome a copy of any training material or notes that you or others have developed and would be prepared to share.

Visit the SHMAK web site at to find new material.


The SHMAK methodology is designed to provide an overall assessment of the health of small NZ streams. It will not provide meaningful results either in streams that have any saltwater content or in streams that have chemical contamination, i.e., from urban or industrial sources.

“Stream health” here refers to the condition of the waterway. No microbiological measures relating to human health are included in SHMAK. Monitoring stream health involves looking at not only water quality but also the physical features of the stream, the plants and animals living in it, and their habitats.

Individual techniques, such as the clarity tube measurements, may be used on their own to give data on specific matters, but will obviously not provide a stream assessment.

The methodology has been designed so that non-scientists with some training and ongoing support can collect and record scientifically robust data and understand what it means.

The equipment has been selected so that it is low-cost and robust and does not require complex or time-consuming maintenance such as regular calibration against standards.

Training users of the kit

When helping individuals and communities to use SHMAK it is important to consider that many people:

  • have never thought about a stream as a living system
  • are not necessarily familiar with the concept of non point-source pollution, and the relationships between activities on the land and effects on the water
  • are interested in knowing more about their environment and the effects of their actions, but are also concerned that what they find out may not be good news.
  • find the SHMAK techniques rather overwhelming when they first see them and their immediate reaction is that it will be too hard for them to learn.

Therefore, we suggest that it is often useful to use a stepwise process to introduce SHMAK to groups or individuals.

With people who are thinking about monitoring and want to know more about what is involved we find that a good way to start is a 1-2 hour session that includes a discussion on why monitoring is useful as well as a “quick” demonstration of the kit. The aim is provide a feel for stream health and what monitoring results can show, but not to overwhelm people with details on the techniques. Once they have decided that a stream monitoring programme is a good idea, then in-depth training on how to select sites and collect and record data, can be provided. Because monitoring is useful only if it is carried out regularly, and the results compared, ongoing follow up and support is also important to ensure that groups and individuals are comfortable with their monitoring and that their data are producing meaningful results.

Note that while the SHMAK kit was not designed as a teaching tool for schools, we are delighted to learn that some schools are using it, often linked with their wider community through a landcare group. However, we make no apologies for the repeated counts, etc., that form part of the methods and may be boring for school children. They are necessary to provide robust data for long term monitoring, which is the objective of this package. There are other packages (e.g. “Stream Sense) that use the same or similar methods but have been developed to fit within the school curriculum and provide relevant learning experiences.

These notes are presented under the following headings and cover the topics that we have identified as useful for implementation of the SHMAK programme.

1. Demonstrating SHMAK


  • show what the kit is about;
  • discuss why it is important to know about stream health;
  • show how to the kit is used;
  • discuss the scientific background to methods and assessment of stream health.


2. Site selection and monitoring

SHMAK trainers will help individuals/families or groups set up sites, and train them in data collection, recording, analysis.

3. Training trainers

Draft programme for workshops to train people who are interested in helping others set up sites and learn how to use SHMAK kit.

Before people make a commitment to setting up monitoring sites they need to know what they are letting themselves in for.

We have put together a 2-hour session aimed at providing answers to the following questions:

  • Why would you want to monitor?
  • What do you actually DO ? Could I do it?
  • What do the results tell you?
  • How long does it take, and how much does it cost?

Our experience is that this length and detail are about right for giving people enough information to go away knowing what is involved and feeling that they could do it.

(Note: the following are guidelines only – organisers and facilitators must adapt to the needs/situation/experience of the group they are demonstrating to!)

Who should run a demo?

Ideally there should be a facilitator and a SHMAK trainer, maybe with the assistance of an “organiser” who has arranged the event.

  • Facilitator: a person with facilitation skills and experience in rural communities and rural issues, e.g., Landcare Trust co-ordinator, regional council staff.
  • SHMAK trainer: a person who has experience with the SHMAK kit, and can explain the methods.

Where should it be run?

Ideally the demonstration session would be held at a stream where a “live” demonstration can be done. However, it would be possible to do it away from a stream using some rock/invertebrate samples collected in advance, and buckets of water to test pH, temperature, conductivity, etc.

Equipment required

  • set of handouts
  • at least one complete kit, including manual
  • extra containers, hand lenses, clarity tube (depending on numbers expected)
  • gumboots
  • possibly a whiteboard or flip chart to note points raised during the discussion

Suggested demonstration format

A Welcome and introductions Leader: Organiser and/or facilitator

B Why monitor? Leader: Facilitator

C Demonstration Leader: SHMAK trainer

D Wind up, where to, how to get started Leader: Facilitator

A Welcome and introductions

Purpose: To make sure that participants are all introduced to each other, and understand what is going to happen, and how long it will take, etc.


B Why monitor? (discussion of water and stream health issues)

Purpose: To use a facilitated session to get a group of rural people talking and thinking about the uses and importance of water, its quality and the relationships between land use activities and stream health. This module is designed to be the first session in a demonstration of the SHMAK kit to a group that has not seen it before. It is not about getting answers, but rather about raising questions and issues.


Who should lead the session?

Ideally this session would be lead by a facilitator.

How long should it take?

This may depend a bit on the group, and how much they have to say, but around 20 minutes would be a good length. However, don’t persist if discussion dries up – move on to the actual demonstration, and try to get some discussion going in the wind-up.

Suggested approach to discussion of water and stream health issues

This module would follow immediately after the welcome, introductions and general outline of the programme for the demonstration.

Introductory remarks

Facilitator would make some introductory remarks relevant to the group and the reason for the demo – e.g., Has the group asked for the session? Has the council or some other organisation put it together?

Generally it will be something like “We’re here because some person or persons think that rural land managers should know more about their stream health.” Alternatively a specific issue or problem may have triggered the meeting.

“The purpose of demonstrating SHMAK is to show you what it’s all about, and how it works, but first lets talk a bit about why you might want to know more about your streams, or perhaps why it may be important to understand what’s going on.”


The following are suggestions of questions that can be put to the group to provoke some discussion:

  • What is the significance of water on your property and to farming generally? (alternatively, you could focus on the property that the group is on and ask: what is the significance of water to this property or business?)

If you need to prompt for responses, the following may be useful:

Isn’t it vital for stock, crops, pasture, family?

What is it used for (on the farm; downstream)?

Does the quality of water for stock, crops, etc., matter?

Why, or why not?

How much is there? What do you do if there isn’t enough? What about floods – do they occur? Are they a problem? Why?

Water storage – dams, ponds, tanks…

  • What do you know about your water?

Where does it come from?

e.g., wells, springs, somewhere up in the catchment, lakes.

  • Do you know what the quality of your water is? Is it better or worse than it has been in the past?

Think about your house supply, stock supply, irrigation, streams and ponds.

  • Where does your waste go? Does anything that is potentially harmful get into the water?

This could be from: the house; stock (especially from intensively used areas – yards, dairy sheds, etc.); chemical containers, wash water, chemical residues (left-overs, etc.); septic tanks, offal pits, silage pits.

  • Do you know what the quality of the water is that leaves your place and goes to the downstream neighbours?

If you know what the quality is, how do you know?

This could be from: testing; the appearance of the water (is it murky, muddy, or is it clean, looking good?); the presence of weeds; in the past kids used to swim/play in it – not safe, or not attractive, now; fishing/whitebaiting not as good as in the past, or better than in past.

What other inputs do you use on your farm? What do you know about the quality and/or health of these before you use them?

  • stock – health, genetics, disease;
  • seed – quality;
  • fertiliser – contents, quality;
  • pesticides, herbicides – safety, effectiveness.


If at a stream site, get the group to have a look around, and ask:

What do you THINK might be affecting this stream – good or bad? Some examples:



suitable riparian planting

shade, food for fish; reduce runoff

stock not able to get in water

avoid direct pollution and disturbance

banks not eroded

reduce sediment in stream



stock in water or have access to water

directly polluting water, bank erosion

crop close to stream bank

sprays, etc., high risk of getting into water; in high rainfall may get sediment washed into stream

untreated or partly treated discharges (e.g., dairy sheds)


problems upstream

may be hard to do anything about this


The facilitator can use this discussion to lead into the second topic for the demonstration:

How can we measure what is happening to the health of our streams, and understand what is affecting it?

You might say something like:

“Well, you seem to have plenty of ideas about what farm activities MIGHT be affecting the stream, but it seems that the linkages might not always be very straightforward, and it’s clearly not easy to determine just by looking how BIG or IMPORTANT particular things might be. In these days of the Resource Management Act and competitive marketing of our clean, green image to domestic and international markets land managers are increasingly being asked to SHOW that what they are doing doesn’t degrade the environment.

“The SHMAK monitoring kit has been specifically designed for farm streams, i.e., freshwater streams that you can wade in. It is not suitable for big rivers, or streams with any tidal effects.

“The methods are scientifically robust, the equipment is easy to use and easy to maintain. The data will give good information on changes in stream health.

“So, now we’ll get [name of trainer] to show us what is actually involved in collecting the data, and what it tells us.”

C Demonstration of how to use the kit

Purpose: To demonstrate to potential users of SHMAK the techniques involved in regular monitoring and to explain, in simple terms, the stream ecology principles on which the system is based, with a quick run through of how the results can be used to get an assessment of stream health. It’s assumed that detailed advice on site selection and planning monitoring programmes will be covered when people actually want to begin using the kit. All the latter information is in the Stream Monitoring Manual and can be referred to if necessary.

The aim is NOT to go into a lot of detail on exactly “how” a technique is done, but rather “why” and what the results mean. (The details of “how” will be explained when a site is actually set up.)

Who should lead the session?

A SHMAK trainer – someone who is familiar with the techniques used in SHMAK and has a reasonable understanding of the theory behind it.

How long should it take?

Aim for a bit over an hour, with approximately 5 mins introduction, 30 mins on stream life, 20 mins on habitat measurements and 15 mins on the assessment system.


Prior to the demo, if it’s at a stream and if you have time, mark out the reach you’re going to work in using the yellow rope in the kit and a couple of survey pegs. It’s also useful to mark a transect across the stream at the downstream end of the reach.

Running the session

Everyone at the demo should have a handout that includes background information about SHMAK plus a complete set of monitoring forms (filled in as an example). As the demonstrator works through the methods, people can refer to the forms

The following is a suggested order for points to be covered during a demo.

        Introduction: “In your handout there is a set of SHMAK monitoring forms that have been filled in using data from one of our trial streams. You can refer to these as I work through the methods. Also ask questions by all means. There should be some time for more general questions at the end.

        “The SHMAK system is based on collecting information about various aspects of the stream habitat and stream life and then applying a scoring system to the results to evaluate the “health” of a stream. We look at the whole stream, not just water quality.

        “The 10-metre reach we’ve marked out is the recommended length for a monitoring site. If you decided to set up a programme of regular monitoring, you’d use this same site each time. This means that you can compare the results over time and see if things have been changing or not.

        “Now have a look at the forms. First of all fill in the obvious bits at the front: site name, date, etc.

        “The monitoring procedure itself is in four parts. The first part is Recent flow conditions. In a regular monitoring programme the aim is to have conditions as similar as possible on different monitoring occasions. It’s recommended that you don’t monitor within 4 to 6 weeks of a big flood because stream plants and animals may take at least this amount of time to recover from the effects of the flood. There’s space to include some depth and width measurements for comparison with other monitoring occasions if the flow seems unusually large or small.

        “The second part is Recent farm inputs and activities. Here you think about what’s been happening upstream of your monitoring site during the past few weeks. It’s important to complete this at every monitoring because the answers can give you some vital clues about stream health and the possible causes of change.

        “The crucial information about stream health comes in part D. Stream life. That’s because plants and animals often prefer to live in certain conditions, so the things living in clean, healthy streams won’t be the same as those living in polluted streams.

        “Of course not all streams that are healthy are exactly the same – there’s a huge range of stream types. The assessment system in SHMAK deals with this by recognising different stream types. So you make an assessment according to the type of stream you have. I’ll come back to this later.

        “In the stream life section we look at invertebrates: the small animals that live in the stream – for example, insects (usually the young stages, larvae or nymphs); various kinds of worms; snails and other small molluscs. We also look at periphyton – stream algae, the slimy green or brown stuff on the stream bed.

        “Notice that because I’m collecting the stream life information first, I’m working at the downstream end of the site. This means that the rest of the site will be undisturbed when we come to do the habitat measurements.

        “In the kit there are four colour sheets to help you recognise different types of invertebrates and periphyton.

        “You don’t have to identify every single kind of invertebrate. We’ve selected 17 different kinds that are easy to recognise (when you get used to them) and that are mostly typical of certain types of stream. [pass the sheets around.]

        “Each invertebrate has been assigned a score between 1 and 10 based on what sort of habitat it prefers and how tolerant it is. High scores are for animals normally found in clean conditions, low scores are for animals that can tolerate polluted conditions.

        “We take samples of invertebrates by picking up stones from the stream bottom. 10 samples altogether. In a wide stream, take the samples across a transect. In a narrow waterway, you’ll have to use a couple of transects, or work your way up the site, making sure you get samples from both the middle and the sides of the stream. [show how depending on the size of the demo stream]

        “Examine each stone in one of the white containers supplied. Look for the indicator invertebrates and count how many you find of each type. Then write the numbers on the form.

        “Using the same stones, also assess the periphyton (algae) cover of each: % cover by different types, as illustrated on the colour charts.

        “There’s also an option for just marking whether each indicator invertebrate and periphyton type is present or absent, with no counting or estimating coverage. We’ve found that this works reasonably well in terms of indicating stream health. It is not as precise as counting but it’s quicker.

        “If the stream has a sandy or silty bed, you collect samples using the sieve provided [show how].

        “If the stream bed is covered with water plants take a sample of plant material (a couple of stalks), swish them around in a white container with a bit of stream water, then looks for invertebrates [show how].

        [At this stage you’ll be in the stream, picking up stones and/or silt/plant samples. Pass a couple of these around the group and point out the identifications of some animals. Use the lenses provided with the kits. This should take only a few minutes. There won’t be time to thoroughly practice invertebrate identifications, but you can say that anyone interested in looking further at the system will get more help.]

        “After all ten samples are collected and marked on the form you can then work out overall scores for invertebrates and periphyton. Instructions are on the forms. You’d generally do this later when you’ve finished the monitoring.

        “Now turn to part C of the monitoring forms Habitat quality. We look at eight stream habitat features. In each question scores are assigned for answers within given ranges.

        [Depending on the interest shown and time available you might want to just explain how to make these measurements, or you might want to include a bit about the ecological significance of each. There may well be questions on the latter anyway.]

        Water velocity: We measure water flow by timing how long it takes for an object to float down you 10 metre reach. An orange is a good float because it sits well down in the water. This is a very rough indication of flow velocity as water tends to move fastest on the surface. You should try to use the same kind of float each time for the best comparisons. Repeat three times.

[demonstrate by getting someone to drop the orange in above the site and turning on/off a stopwatch as it passes the u/s/d/s markers.]

Ecological significance: Water velocity has a big influence on what lives in a stream because stream invertebrates (and fish) generally have a “preferred” range. Some, e.g., mayflies and stoneflies, need well-oxygenated fast-flowing water. You’ll rarely find them in other conditions. Crustaceans like snails can tolerate more sluggish conditions. Often you’ll fine invertebrates which have a wide range of tolerance to water velocities and which have a range of adaptations to withstand high velocities. Thus mayflies have flattened bodies; snails and freshwater limpets have strong “sticking” mechanisms.

        pH: Measure pH using these pH indicator strips. Place a sample of stream water in one of the containers provided; immerse a strip and leave for about 3 minutes until the colour has stabilised [show how]. Always note down the time when you take a pH reading because it can vary throughout the day.

Ecological significance: A pH range around neutral (7 plus or minus 1 unit) is crucial for stream invertebrates, and fish also are quite sensitive to wide fluctuations in pH. Note that the pH value you measure is not absolute. In streams where there is a lot of plant growth (especially algae), it varies through the day as photosynthesis takes place and chemical reactions in the water cause the carbonic acid present naturally to dissociate and raise the pH. Fluctuations can take the pH as high as 8.5. More than this can be stressful for fish. So you need to measure pH at the same time of day each time, or at the very least, make a note of the time of day. You should be able to work out from your other monitoring data whether the stream conditions were right for fluctuating or stable daily pH. In general, don’t expect wide fluctuations over time. If you do get an unusual result then re-check the reading. If it comes out the same look for some obvious cause (a fertiliser spill for example).

        Temperature: A thermometer is provided. Immerse it in the stream until the reading stabilises. Like pH you should note the time at which you take the temperature.

Ecological significance: Invertebrates have temperature tolerance ranges like they have velocity tolerance ranges. For the more sensitive types (like mayflies) the range is low. They need cool water and will die if the temperature is too high. Over 15°C starts “knocking out” certain groups. The least favourable streams for these sensitive invertebrates are unshaded areas in which there are wide daily temperature fluctuations. The mean temperature may not be excessively high, but the extremes may be sufficient to kill individuals of certain species. Some invertebrates are much more tolerant. Thus, snails can survive higher temperatures than mayflies. Obviously there is seasonal variation.

Like pH it’s important to record the time of day at which temperature is recorded. There’s space to do this on the sheet. It’s most useful to measure when temperature is maximum.

        Conductivity: Put a sample of water in one of the containers provided and use the TDScan to measure conductivity: insert the probes only. If you immerse the instrument over the brown line, water could get into the circuit board and ruin the probe. Values over about 300-400 are considered very high, under 50 very low.

Ecological significance: Conductivity is a measure of the soluble substances in the water. It works on the principle that the more ions are in the water, the higher the electrical conductance. It is taken as a surrogate for nutrient level because often, the dissolved substances in the water are the nutrient ions anyway. However, they may comprise many other ions as well, particularly as a result of rock type. Any tidal influence on the water also affects conductivity, so we need to be careful in making the assumption that conductivity is equivalent to nutrient levels. In many freshwater streams it is generally true.

Conductivity is one of the most important factors in determining the maximum possible amount of periphyton growth. Streams with consistently low conductivity will not normally support prolific growth. In high conductivity conditions, heavy algal growth tends to strip nutrients from the water; however, the conductivity may still remain high because of the other non-nutrient ions present.

So in high-conductivity streams (more than about 300-400 microS/cm), if all other conditions are suitable (e.g., warm temperatures, low flows) can expect prolific growth of periphyton from time to time, and this may affect other life in the stream.

        Clarity: We measure water clarity with this water clarity tube. [Show how. If there’s time, let others have a try. If the water in your demo stream is too clear to give a reading, make some muddy water and use this to demonstrate how the tube works.]

Ecological significance: Water clarity is very important for people’s perception of a clean, healthy stream. Nevertheless, some waters are naturally cloudy (e.g., glacial streams, streams rising in areas of very soft erodible rock). Also, stream and river water tends to be cloudy following heavy rain. We do recommend that people don’t monitor their streams until a few weeks have elapsed since heavy rainfall so this effect should not be evident in your monitoring results. Turbid water can indicate upstream impacts, and can detract from the attractiveness of your stream. Silt in the water may also settle out and smother the habitats of stream invertebrates, and reduce visibility for fish.

What you are looking for in your clarity results is any change over time. If there is a change to more turbid, then you then need to look for reasons.

Remember that water that is clear isn’t necessarily clean.

        Stream bed composition: We assess stream bed composition by eye. On the data sheet there’s a table of stream bed substrate categories. You estimate the percentage coverage of the stream bottom by each type. In some streams this is easy. Thus it’s straightforward to assess say, 80% gravel and 20% water plants. Beds of mixed stony substrates are more difficult and more liable to be assessed totally differently by different people. For cases like this you can use an alternative method which is described in the manual. It involves picking up at least 100 particles randomly from the stream bed and from that estimating the 5 coverage of each type. [Suggest percentages for the site you are working in; get others to have a try; if the site is more appropriate for the particle counting method then suggest this and give a quick demo of how it is done.]

Ecological significance: The material on the stream bed provides “houses” for fish, invertebrates and algae. It is probably the single most important factor determining what types of plants and animals can inhabit a stream. For this reason, we use stream bed composition to classify different stream types in SHMAK. For example particularly good habitat for invertebrates associated with clean waters is stones up to about 15 cm across. There are plenty of spaces to hide from predators (fish, birds), and the spaces are big enough to allow free passage of aerated water. Groups of larger stones provide some shelter during high flows as they are not easily moved by the force of the water. Fine material is not so good, as it moves easily and if it’s very fine, the amount of oxygen available is restricted.

        Deposits: By deposits we mean the fine material that accumulates on the stream bed but which washes out fairly easily under certain conditions. If you gently agitate the water, these deposits will temporarily make the water cloudy. Look at the stream edges and towards the centre of the flow then tick the category that fits best.

Ecological significance: the presence of deposits on a stream bed indicates a combination of fine (eroded?) material from upstream and flows low enough to allow it to settle out. This could be natural or it could indicate new erosion. If fine material is settling out in a stream this could have important impacts on the stream habitat and it’s suitability for certain invertebrate and fish life.

        Bank vegetation: We assess bank vegetation by eye: the percentage coverage in each category shown on the data sheet. You assess each bank separately than combine the scores. [assess for the current site.]

Ecological significance: Shade – affects temperature, which in turn affects habitat for fish and invertebrates. (see temperature)

Habitat: fish breeding habitats (e.g., inanga); adult insect refuge and breeding ground (assures next generation of aquatic insect larvae).

Shaded patches can reduce overall stream temperature. Depends on velocity, but can be quite marked over a short distance.

Streambank vegetation provides a buffer zone between the stream and agricultural activities, potentially absorbing nutrients that would otherwise leach into the stream.

        “So that’s all the data collection in the stream. What we do now is add up the scores obtained for each of those eight habitat questions and write the total in the box provided. So you now have three scores: one for the invertebrates, one for the periphyton and one for habitat.

        “Now we’ll have just a quick look at how all the data you’ve collected can be used to assess the health of your stream.

[Need to get onto the bank to do this, and use a display board to show a couple of graphs.]

        “As I said earlier, there are many kinds of stream. I also mentioned that stream bed composition is very important factor in determining what kinds of plants and animals live in a stream. So we define stream type according to the stream bed composition. You use the result of habitat question 6 to determine this.

        “In the manual we provide four graphs for stony, stony/sandy, sandy/stony and sandy/silty streams.

        “To get an overall assessment for your stream all you have to do is select the appropriate graph. In the example on the handout, it’s a stony/sandy stream. Then plot invertebrate score vs. habitat score and see where the point falls. Finally look up the periphyton score on the table to get comments.

        “Just as an example here are the graphs for stony streams and sandy/silty streams. The important thing to note is that the very good and excellent stony streams have a much higher invertebrate score than that in sandy/silty streams.”

To wind up the demo there could be a quick discussion on interpreting the results:

  • The assessment gives you a quick answer on the overall stream condition.
  • What if the answer is unexpected (e.g., not as good as at your previous monitoring)?
  • Look at the data again.
  • Make sure there are no mistakes in any of the calculations.
  • Check “Farm inputs and activities”: is anything different from last time.
  • Also check the habitat scores for unusually low scores.

D Wind-up, where to and how to get started

Who should lead the session?

The facilitator should lead this session, but shouldn’t try to answer all the questions. Pass them to whoever is best suited to respond.


This session may flow naturally from the demo to the wind-up, but at some point the facilitator should “take charge” and wind up the event (preferably at or before the designated finish time!!)

Depending on how the demonstration goes, many of the issues may have been discussed. However, it is important to make sure that the following points are covered for the WHOLE group. Often in a demo there may be sub-groups develop. If so, it is important to review the discussion with the full group.

Topics to cover:

  • How much does the kit cost?
  • How long does the monitoring take?
  • How often do we do it?
  • Who can help?
  • Who do I contact, when I’ve had a chance to think about it?

Possible introduction to wind-up

“You’ve now had a chance to see how the SHMAK kit works. It may seem rather daunting at first, but don’t be put off. Collecting useful data, does require some effort, but there are ways to make it easier, such as working in a group… We will come back and discuss that, but first does anyone have any questions?”

Information to respond to questions:


  • the facilitator will need to get relevant local information before the event
  • information, such as prices, local contacts, etc., should be recorded on the hand-out for participants to take home.


How much does the kit cost?

Manual only: $50

Equipment set only: $350

Equipment set and manual: $375

(all prices include GST)

Sets can be shared, e.g., …..(give local example)

Sets can be borrowed from: …..(give local example)

Maintenance costs of equipment should be minimal – less than $20/year for additional pH papers, photocopying forms etc

How long does the monitoring take?

About one hour per site, although the first time, when the site is initially set up, it will take longer.

How often do we do it?

This depends a bit on what level of information you want.

  • To record changes in stream health over time, monitor once in each season.
  • To get specific information on a particular problem might require more frequent measurements.


Who can help?

Note who is able to help a group – e.g., Regional Council staff, Fish & Game, other care groups, etc. (Need to know who is available locally, whether they charge fees, etc. ...)

This is also a chance for anyone present who can offer further help to make an offer to the group!

Options to make monitoring easier:

  • Work as a group in a catchment: neighbours can share sites and remind each other to do the measurements.
  • Identify one or two who are interested, help them develop the skills, and pay them to do everyone’s sites. For example, several South Island high-country landcare groups carry out vegetation monitoring to look at trends in land condition. Some of the women have become interested, and have developed the skills to carry out the monitoring through workshops, etc. These people are now paid by others to come out and do their monitoring. The rate of payment is the cost of a good musterer (which is not expensive!).


Who do I contact, when I’ve had a chance to think about it?

e.g., landcare co-ordinator, council staff, etc.

Again, the facilitator needs to know who the local contacts are.

See Appendix 2 for a suggested information sheet about SHMAK and a handout for participants to take away from SHMAK demonstrations.

Selecting sites and monitoring

Once a group or individual has decided to set up a monitoring site(s) they need assistance with site selection and some training about recording and analysing their data.

Note: this module assumes that the people involved have decided that they want a site (or sites). If they aren’t committed to doing the monitoring, it would be more appropriate to do a demonstration, and explain the purpose etc of the process.


        Select and set up the site, record details, etc.

(Trainer to do this with the individual or group, and explain why the particular reach is chosen.)

        Field techniques.

Needs to cover details of “quality” data collection and recording. Includes “why” different techniques are used, and what you learn from the results.

        Assessment of the results.

Doing calculations and assessment.

First results – what do they tell you.

        Follow-up plan – support for next monitoring. 


        Kit & manual.

        Sets of blank forms (depends on how many sites and how many people).

3.  Training trainers

Aim: To give potential trainers the skills to get others using SHMAK (and provide ongoing support)

New SHMAK users need some assistance and support. There are many people who can provide this. However, to ensure that methods are used consistently and trainers are confident about their work training workshops for these people are important.

One day plus appropriate follow-up, e.g., mentors, review of methods, etc., is adequate. The nature of follow-up training will depend on background/skills/confidence of each participant.

Suggested programme for a “Train the trainers” workshop

The training workshop should cover:

A. The background to SHMAK (30-40 mins)

  • Who is it for?
  • What does it do?
  • How do we envisage getting people interested?
  • How do we intend to support users and trainers?

B. The technical side – field methods, doing the assessment (2-3 hours)

C. Running a demo (30 minutes)

  • Trainer notes: Demonstration of SHMAK kit (includes hand out)
  • Facilitation
  • Technical

D. Site selection and training the users (40-60 minutes)

Trainer notes: learning to use SHMAK.

Appendix 1

Benefits of stream monitoring

These are some notes that may be useful when giving a presentation about SHMAK.

1. Local/on-farm benefits

  • have facts about stream health before others do, and be proactive;
  • redevelopment of whitebait fishery in lowland streams;
  • improvement of trout fishery;
  • improvement of water quality for on-farm activities/irrigation, etc.;
  • improvement in stock health;
  • reduced threat of toxicity to domestic animals;
  • improved aesthetics/recreational opportunities for families.

2. Regional community benefits

  • streamline applications for resource consents;
  • improve water quality for neighbors;
  • improved aesthetics/recreational opportunities for wider community.

3. National and international benefits

  • Agriculture now uses ~87% of the world’s fresh water; and ~90% of diseases in developing countries result from waterborne parasites and pathogens (Naiman et al. 1995).
  • Scarcity of clean water is considered to be the biggest problem facing humanity heading into the 21st century (Time magazine). Humans currently use 54% of accessible freshwater resources. Population is predicted to almost double in 30 years… with the growth in demand for water due to increasing Westernisation expected to more than double over this period (Postel et al. 1996). Canada have already banned all exports of fresh water…before the pressure on them to provide for others gets too strong.
  • United States “Clean Water Action Plan” (Clinton/Gore initiative). Stream restoration and prevention of agricultural pollution now the major environmental thrust in the US. This puts pressure on other developed countries.
  • In New Zealand, agriculture and forestry occupy 57% of the land surface and provide 69% of our total exports, but are perceived by water managers to be the main causes of degradation of freshwaters. Recently, the government has established a National Science Strategy for Sustainable Land Management which identified agricultural impacts on aquatic systems as one of the top 3 priorities for action. Desired outcomes include: “adoption of management practices that maintain or enhance the quality of groundwater resources, coastal waters and waterways regarding harmful microorganisms and other contaminants, suspended sediments and nutrients” and “the maintenance of catchments to provide high quality water resources for downstream users and for users of coastal spaces.”
  • Biodiversity conventions must be adhered to.
  • Lost genetic diversity as a result of pollution and degradation of stream habitats has been a major problem worldwide and in New Zealand (e.g., 20% of world’s freshwater fish are currently extinct. At least one NZ native fish has become extinct (the grayling) and others are very rarely seen.
  • Farmers need to be seen to be adhering to the RMA.


Linden, E. 2000. State of the Planet: Condition critical. Time (April–May 2000):18-24.

Naiman, R.J.; Magnuson, J.J.; McKnight, D.M.; Stanford, J.A. 1995. The Freshwater Imperative: A Research Agenda. Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Postel, S.L.; Daily, G.C.; Ehrlich, P.R. 1996: Human appropriation of renewable fresh water. Science 271: 785-788.

Appendix 2

Suggested information sheets on SHMAK

Two suggested information sheets follow.

The first is a general introduction to SHMAK intended for people just starting to think about stream health and monitoring.

The second is a possible format for a hand-out for participants at SHMAK demonstrations. Appropriate local contacts will need to be added.

An introduction:

Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit

SHMAK – the Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit – is used by individuals or groups to measure the “health” of the streams that flow across their land. It provides a simple, practical and scientifically tested tool to record impacts on waterways. With repeated monitoring you can detect long-term trends in waterway health. The kit will also help you to determine whether your land management practices are affecting the waterways in a positive or negative way.

What you do…

You select a site (or sites) in a stream and go through a sequence of tests to collect information about that stream.

You collect three types of information:

  • land use and farm management information – what land use is happening immediately upstream of the site and the whole stream catchment;
  • stream habitat measurements and observations – for example, stream flow, water clarity, stream bed rocks or silts, bank vegetation;
  • biological information – easily recognised (“indicator”) invertebrate animals (e.g., insects, snails and worms) and stream algae.

This takes about one hour per site for one person, with another half hour to work out your stream scores. Two sites per stream every spring, summer, autumn and winter will give you a good level of information.


A manual that gives you details of:

  • how to plan and set up monitoring sites for your property;
  • data sheets for recording results;
  • instructions on how to monitor;
  • pictures to help recognise stream plants and animals.
  • scoring systems for data analysis.

And all the equipment you need to set up sites and collect data, including a simple instrument for measuring water clarity, pH papers, thermometer and conductivity meter.

Using the information

A section in the manual guides you through the interpretation and meaning of your data. The information can then be used to help you learn about how your farming activities affect stream habitats and water quality. It can also help you adapt and change your farming practices if you need to. The information may also be useful for other purposes, such as applying for a resource consent, determining the effects of a discharge from (say) a treatment pond, and comparing your stream with other streams. The pollution scoring system for stream-bed animals is based on one used by most Regional Council biologists and is easy to understand.


Need a demonstration?

You may be able to watch a farmer or landcare group use the kit on their property if there is one in your area. The Landcare Trust can help organise a demonstration for you.


Getting your water monitoring kit

You can contact NIWA Instrument Systems (ph.: 03 343 7850; fax: 03 343 7891; email: ) or your nearest Landcare Trust Co-ordinator.

There is a charge of $375 for this kit. Manuals can be purchased separately for $50.

In most regions kits can be borrowed. Contact your local landcare Trust Co-ordinator, or Regional Council.

How healthy is your stream?

Demonstration of SHMAK: Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit

The demonstration that you see today will show you what this stream monitoring kit is all about. Don’t feel put off if it all seems too much and too difficult. There are people who can help you, and ways in which you can work with others in your community to develop your skills and help each other.

Collecting data that is useful does take some time and effort. We believe that it is worthwhile making the effort, but it is over to you to make your own decisions.

SHMAK is scientifically robust, yet straightforward enough that you don’t need science training to understand and collect information.

Getting help to get started

(Local contact details in here)

What you need to do

To do your own monitoring you will select (with help) a site (or sites) in your stream. You collect 3 types of information:

  • Land use and management information about what is happening around and upstream of the site;
  • Stream habitat measurements and observations, e.g. stream flow, water clarity, stream bed rocks or silts, bank vegetation;
  • Biological – easily recognised (“indicator”) invertebrate animals (e.g. insects, snails and worms) and stream algae (slimes).

How long does it take?

It takes about one hour per site for one person. To work out your stream scores takes about another half an hour. Two sites on a stream flowing through your property, monitored every spring, summer, autumn and winter will give you good levels of information.


The kit comes with a manual that gives you details of:
  • How to plan and set up monitoring sites;
  • Data sheets for recording results;
  • Instructions on how to monitor;
  • Pictures to help recognise stream plants and animals;
  • Scoring systems for data analysis.

The kit also contains all the equipment you need to set up sites and collect data, including a simple instrument for measuring water clarity, pH papers, thermometer and a conductivity meter.

How do you get hold of a kit?

(add details and/or attach an order form)



There is a charge of $375 for a set of equipment plus one manual. A manual can be purchased separately for $50. These prices include GST, postage and packing.

You can share a kit with others.

To find out where you can borrow a kit, contact us:

To complete the handout add:

  • a copy of pages 3.1 – 13 from the manual (An example of stream health monitoring procedures) see Appendix 3;
  • an order form or brochure about the kit.