In order to give a statement about the state of a spring it must first be systematically surveyed.
Whoever is planning to carry out a survey will first have to clear a few basic questions.
When is the best time to survey springs?
Both in the summer or in autumn springs can become temporarily dry or have a reduced flow. The best time to survey a spring is in winter and spring. In mountains these seasons may come at different time points depending on altitude and exposure. The spring regions can also get more light at this time of year, as the surrounding vegetation is generally pressed low to the ground.
Particularly noticeable are the springs in high altitudes in winter, when the ‘warm’ spring water temperature creates a green snow free patch in the landscape where the water exits the ground. You should be careful to avoid surveying during the snow melt, as many periodic or temporary springs will appear.
ppearance of flora at spring sites will depend on altitude, but will mostly occur in early summer. In order to survey the full range of fauna species two surveys should be taken, one in spring and one in autumn.
Which type of map is the best?
Springs are difficult to find in the landscape due to their relatively small size. It is therefore important to have a good map. For survey work we recommend a topographical map, scale 1:25,000 or with small areas a site map, scale 1:5,000. By forest or woodland surveys you should first contact the Forestry department, as they will generally have forest maps which can be useful.
Who should I contact?
part from the Forestry department you can also contact the Water science department, who may be able to give you the location of known drinking water springs. In Bavaria there is also the Water rights department as part of the Nature protection authority (Naturschutzbehörde), who will also have information on old unused drinking water stations.
How should I approach the survey?
By a systematic survey you should always follow the water from the bottom till the top of the spring e.g. towards where the spring water leaves the ground. Using this method you can avoid missing any different branches of the spring, which may not be shown on the map. If you begin from the top of the spring it is often difficult to keep your orientation.
If you are not using a GPS system it can also be difficult to find the exact position of the spring due to missing orientation features. The morphology of the area can give a hint of where to find the spring, as erosion often leaves troughs and notches in the landscape. If for example there is a clear trough above where a pipeline exits the ground it can be assumed that the spring has been drained and was earlier present in this trough.
How extensive is a spring survey?
The time you take to survey a spring depends on the natural landscape surrounding it and the quality of the map materials that you use. You should study any map or literature material available before visiting the site, to get an idea of the landscape.
How accurate the map is should be checked when first arriving on site. Smaller roads and water ways are often not included on maps, especially in woods, which makes orientation more difficult and extends the time it will take to complete the survey.
How should I set the boundaries of the survey area?
The question of the site of a research or survey area is often solved through the use of political boundaries. Mostly community or district boundaries are used, found for example in the water catchment area plans. Waterways do not stop at boundaries however. It makes more ecological sense therefore to set the boundaries along the water catchment area.
What method should I use when surveying an area?
A basic question is also how to go about the mapping. After choosing a project there are several questions that should be at the centre of the survey. Until now different questions were asked at each site, which however makes comparison difficult later on. A method has now been developed, named the Bavarian Spring Survey Method (Bayerischen Quellerfassungsbogen- BayQEB), which can be used for spring projects of many different aims. The multiple stage, easy to understand and practical structure of this survey method means that even interested laypersons can help with spring surveying.
BASIS- This is a simple survey that can be carried by people of all knowledge levels, and should always be the foundation of any survey. It introduces the basic form of the spring and records the exact location and condition of the spring into account. DETAIL- This is a survey only to be filled out by experts in spring ecology, in this survey the details of the springs situation (the out flow, the water depth, the substrata) and the first management suggestions are recorded. Further surveys can then be taken for: Fauna, Flora and Chemistry or Physical components.
What else should I take note of?
While taking a survey of a spring you should be careful not to damage the spring or the surrounding area, for example try not to trample the area. It is best when only a few people visit a spring. With large groups, like for example school groups, should avoid visiting trampling sensitive seeping springs (Helocrene). Environmental education is best at spring streams, below the start of the spring or at less trampling sensitive flowing springs (Rheocrene).
To these read more on these subjects you can download the following PDF documents (currently only available in German):
These materials can also be ordered from the publication shop of the Bavarian department for the Environment (Landesamt für Umwelt). There is also a downloadable version available: