case studies

Visual Stream Assessment



Shelby County Public Works


Visual Stream Assessment

CAESER developed and implemented a mobile application for Shelby County Public Works to visually inspect and collect data for 160 miles of streams in the area.

As part of the non-analytical monitoring requirement for a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit, a visual stream assessment (VSA) must be performed on impaired streams where the permit holder has been identified as the impairment source.


The work provided by CAESER was vital to the County meeting its requirement in the State-issued storm water permit, not only by providing the training, boats, equipment and numerous man-hours of its students, but with the detailed construction of the GIS database on the front end. The results allow for critical analysis of the stream conditions, prioritization of repairs and justification for future mitigation projects.

CAESER provided a turnkey solution by educating the students on proper evaluation of site conditions to get consistent results, developing a safety plan, querying all landowners along the 160 miles of streams and mailing notifications, conducting the visual inspections and putting together a seamless geodatabase. Their work has become the model for the County’s electronic inspections program.

– Chris Masin, Senior Engineer, Shelby County Stormwater Program Coordinator


The development of this application was finished in four months with the help of 15 trained and dedicated students from the University of Memphis and Rhodes College. The digital data collection was the first of its type in the nation for visual stream assessments. As data collection occurred in some of the most remote locations in our region, an Android application was designed to enable disconnected editing. This application allowed students to gather data independent of the project database, and then drop all data back into a centralized system once they returned to the office. New data could be instantly viewed for QA/QC (quality assurance/quality control) purposes.

VSAs are required every five years. With mobile data collection, MS4s can quickly collect and update data resulting in an evolving database that can be viewed in real-time. When the MS4 corrects an impairment, they can update the database and archive old data, thus leaving a digital paper trail of their progress.

Shelby County Public Works has contracted CAESER and Tioga Environmental Consultants to conduct the 2021 VSA and we are currently collecting data on 300 miles of streams throughout the County.