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Coastkeeper conducts Elfin Forest insect sample

REGION — What do the bugs tell us about water quality? A lot, says Travis Pritchard, who led the organization’s first round of bioassessment, a monitoring program that analyzes bugs in San Diego County’s inland waters to learn about the health of the stream. Pritchard and a small team of professionally trained volunteers conducted its first bioassessment in Escondido Creek June 8, which is one site of six selected in the county.

Coastkeeper will monitor two locations in Escondido Creek at Harmony Grove Road and Elfin Forest Road — one above and one below burned areas from last month’s fires. Data from bioassessment can be used to track watershed recovery from damage due to the recent fires.

Data from Coastkeeper’s current monitoring program allow the organization to say if a stream has pollutant problems, but it can’t say what effects those pollutants have on the stream.

With its newbioassessment program, Coastkeeper will add physical and biological integrity measurements to the picture of stream health. The organization will do this by collecting and analyzing the insects that make the stream their home, noting the state of the bugs’ physical habitat and assessing the degree of human impact.

Data show that the vast majority of San Diego County’s streams are in poor or very poor health. Coastkeeper will use its bioassessment data to identify what’s driving these substandard scores.

To learn more about bioassessment, visit