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The Environmental Quality Institute

EQI collects scientific data that informs environmental understanding and decision-making. Our nonprofit laboratory monitors water quality in streams and lakes throughout western North Carolina.

We curate reliable and objective data, expand awareness about regional water quality, and provide technical support to nonprofits, local governments, educational institutions, and communities to drive environmental improvements.

Community Impacts

33 Years of Monitoring

EQI has been working with partners and volunteers to monitor western NC waterways since 1990.

200+ Stream and Lake Sites

We sample sites in 17 mountain counties, located in 6 NC river basins. Results are shared with more than 30 partner organizations and agencies.

20,000 Tests Run Annually

Chemical testing is conducted monthly for all sites at EQI’s NC-certified laboratory. Aquatic invertebrate sampling happens each spring and fall.


Mountain Xpress Give!Local Fundraiser

When: Now through Dec. 31st, 2023

EQI is a participant in this year’s Give!Local “Environment” category. EQI and our volunteers aim to make a big difference in protections for our local waterways. A donation of any size helps operate these stream monitor programs in western NC!

The Volunteer Water Information Network

The Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) program began in 1990 and tests stream and lake water for chemical and physical properties. Trained volunteers collect water samples on a monthly basis. These samples are then analyzed for eight parameters at EQI’s state-certified laboratory. Tests include turbidity, total suspended solids, pH, orthophosphate, nitrates, ammonia, alkalinity, conductivity, and sometimes total phosphorus and fecal coliform. This type of monitoring allows an understanding of ecological conditions at the time of sampling.

The Stream Monitoring Information Exchange

The Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) program has been sampling streams for bugs (benthic macroinvertebrates) since 2005. Each spring and fall, trained volunteers sample in small groups. Group Leaders with additional experience oversee the sampling and quality assurance protocols. This type of stream monitoring allows a greater understanding of water quality and habitat changes over time based on what is able to live there.

EQI Water Quality Map and Data Portal

EQI’s data is publicly available in our Data Portal. Take a look to see the water quality near your community.

What happens to the data?

Partner nonprofit organizations, local governments, and communities use EQI’s data for watershed planning, allocating staff time and resources, and justifying funding requests for restoration and conservation efforts. Frequent and widespread monitoring helps identify sudden water quality changes and long-term trends. Results are also used for youth education and community involvement. Our ultimate priority is supporting local solutions to improve water quality in western NC.

Shout-out: Many thanks to our corporate sponsors!