Last week several staff from The Watershed Project attended River Rally, a national conference for river and water champions. We had the opportunity to learn a lot about other watershed and water groups across the country and how our mission fits in with theirs. This collaborative energy is an important part of our work that is often overlooked in the daily scramble to get everything done. There are more than 5,000 citizen science programs in North America, involving more than 100 million people, and we can advance faster if we work together and share our successes and methods.
The Watershed Project’s citizen science and water quality monitoring program works with community volunteers to share experience, methods and equipment, with the goal of standardizing volunteer monitoring throughout the county. Last summer, The Watershed Project launched our monitoring program in 5 watersheds across Contra County, using state protocols and quality assurance practices to make sure our data will be useful to multiple agencies as well as the volunteer groups involved. Hearing stories and learning from the experiences of other similar organizations across the country helps to connect our programming to the wider movement of citizen science and increasing access to high quality data.
We were happy to learn about a tool called Water Reporter, which supports watershed groups by helping them get their water quality data online. Using an excel template, groups can format their data and submit to Water Reporter for upload onto their national map. The Izaak Walton League of America started a monitoring program this last winter that relied on citizen scientists and the Water Reporter app to track road salt in eastern states. Interested community members received chloride test strips from the League, tested creeks near road salt deposits, and uploaded a photo of the test strip to the Winter Salt Watch project in Water Reporter so that League staff could make the final reading and record the data.
We also learned about the Bronx River in New York, where carefully deployed trash booms indicate that the majority of trash is coming not from the underserved lower watershed, but from the more affluent upper watershed. Trash is a big issue in waterways throughout the country, and agencies in Los Angeles have recently established Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for trash. A TMDL is a regulatory term, used to describe a plan for restoring impaired waters that identifies the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. Typically TMDLs are in place for more traditional contaminants like heavy metals or pesticides, but more and more trash is being recognized as an important factor affecting water quality.
We hope to implement some of these great technologies and partnerships moving forward, and hope you will become part of our network! Please contact Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our water quality monitoring programs.
Thank you to the Campbell Foundation, River Network, and the Rose Foundation who provided generous funding for the trip!