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Assessment of stream quality using biological indices at selected sites in the Brandywine Creek basin, Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1981-97

January 1, 2003

In 1970, the Chester County Water Resources Authority (Pennsylvania) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) established a longterm water-quality network with the goal of assessing the quality of streams in the county and understanding stream changes in response to urbanization using benthic-macroinvertebrate data. This database represents one of the longest continuous water-quality data sets in the country. Benthic macroinvertebrates are aquatic insects, such as mayflies, caddisflies, riffle beetles, and midges, and other invertebrates that live on the stream bottom. Benthic macroinvertebrates are useful in evaluating stream quality because their habitat preferences and low motility cause them to be affected directly by substances that enter the aquatic system. By evaluating the diversity and community structure of benthic-macroinvertebrate populations, a determination of stream quality can be made.

Between 1981 and 1997, the water-quality network consisted of 43 sites in 5 major basins in Chester County—Delaware, Schuylkill, Brandywine, Big Elk and Octoraro, and Red and White Clay. Benthicmacroinvertebrate, water-chemistry, and habitat data were collected each year in October or November during base-flow conditions. Using these data, Reif evaluated the overall water-quality condition of Chester County streams. This Fact Sheet summarizes the key findings from Reif for streams in the Brandywine Creek Basin. These streams include West Branch Brandywine Creek (sites 37 and 38), Buck Run (site 46), Doe Run (site 45), East Branch Brandywine Creek (sites 48, 42, 36, and 39), Indian Run (site 47), West Valley Creek (site 44), and Main Stem Brandywine Creek (site 40). This summary includes an analysis of stream conditions based on benthic-macroinvertebrate samples and an analysis of trends in stream conditions for the 17-year study period.

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