Kick Sampling Guide

Citizen Science Stream Index (CSSI) Quick Notes

Provided by LAWPRO

European countries are placing higher value on clean, unpolluted streams and rivers, driven by the EU Water Framework, Habitat and Nitrates Directives.

The quality of streams and rivers in Europe is under increasing pressure from industrial agriculture, and sewage pollution remains a problem in many areas.

Most smaller streams and rivers in Europe are not monitored for water quality, for logistic reasons.

There is therefore a clear opportunity to engage non-expert ‘citizens’ in the field of water quality biomonitoring

The majority of freshwater biomonitoring schemes are based on macroinvertebrates, which show characteristic differences in their tolerance to organic pollution.

The CSSI method is a simplified biomonitoring indicator scheme which does not require expert knowledge or identification skills.

The system is based on identifying the presence or absence of 6 taxa (groups) of macroinvertebrates (bugs) in freshwater samples. The 6 are made up of 3 x ‘Good’ guys and 3 x ‘Bad’ guys. The 3 ‘Good’ guys are taxa/species that are very sensitive to pollution poor water quality. They need clean and well-oxygenated water to survive. The ‘Bad ‘ guys are taxa/species that are very tolerant of polluted or poor water quality.

‘Good guys

1. Rhyacophilia (green uncased caddisfly)

2. Heptagenidae (flattened mayflies – note: mayflies have 3 tails)

3. Stoneflies (note: stoneflies have 2 tails)

‘Bad’ guys

  1. Leeches
  2. Asellus (Waterlouse)
  3. Snails

The CSSI method involves:

  1. Taking 3 x 30 second ‘kick samples’ of the bed of the stream using a pond net + examination of invertebrates in a white tray on the bankside. Each 30-second kick sample is not taken standing in the one spot kicking for 30 seconds. Instead, move around kicking for maybe 10 seconds at 3 areas – certainly ensure the riffle area is kicked but also maybe glide are and even pool, mid-stream and also in near banks where vegetation is. Also, pick up a rock or two and wash into the net.
  2. Checking each sample for the presence or absence of the good guys and bad guys and scoring in the relevant section of data recording sheet (attached to this email)
  3. Calculate the total score from your 3 samples and the result will a good indicator of the water quality of your river/stream
  4. Take good photographs for verification:
    – Photo of the site
    – Photo of the white tray
    – Photo of the indicator taxa on any white lid, e.g. a jam jar lid
  5. Why a good photo of the sampling site?
    A good photo of the sampling site tells us:
    – That the sample was taken in a riffle / gravelly location
    – Tells us more about the environmental  condition of the site – is it damaged by drainage for example or very shaded (like this one)
  6. Why a good photo of the white tray?
    A good photo of the white tray tells us:
    – What invertebrates are there
    – Tells us more about the diversity of the sample
    – Tells us other information such as if there is excess algae for example
  7. Why a good photo on a jam jar lid?
    A good photo (in focus – check before leaving the site) of the indicator taxa on a jam jar:-
    – Makes it much easier for us to validate the sample
    – Speeds up the validation process so we can get the data up on the website quicker
  8. Top Tip – don’t complete your scoring for each sample until after you have poured the sample in the tray back into the river/stream. It is often at this stage that leeches and snails that may not have been previously visible remain stuck to the bottom of the tray and are now visible and should be added into the scoring sheet.
  9. Biosecurity – make sure to check, clean and dry all equipment and clothing after sampling and before using the equipment/clothing in another waterbody. Learn more here:

Data – send on the completed form and photos to your local Community Water Officer (CWO) for verification and uploading to our national map. Your CWO for Wicklow is currently Justin Ivory

Kick Sampling Form

Useful Websites



EPA site for detailed information about our water bodies and recent monitoring results etc.

More on our Wicklow FreshWater Watch Programme here.