Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hoosier River Watch

Today, I went to Hoosier Riverwatch Training at Bonneyville Mill park. What a training! It is geared for adults--people 18 and over that are interested in water quality in the area. Do you like to drink water or use it for recreational or other uses? This could be a great FREE workshop for you! While the workshop trains volunteers to perform citizen scientist tests to monitor water quality, there are no requirements to do all the tests or any of the tests after the workshop. However, the data collected is very important to monitor the quality of the water in the area. Which reminds me, I worked quality control at a large bakery many moons ago while home from college summer. I did several similar tests to make sure the bakery items were up to standards.

We looked at the many uses and possible pollutants of water. This small scale model let us see how normal life might affect water quality.

The training included workbooks with clear examples and good step-by-step examples of how to monitor the quality of the water. The illustrations are great in the book and helped me understand healthy water in our communities. Pollutants and other mistreatments of water were addressed, yet there was no agenda to single out any source. We all make choices that might affect our water sources. We can all help make good choices as communities to lessen the impacts.

I felt like I was in Chemistry class in high school again! It was kind of fun to perform the tests. I will say that having the guided practice with an instructor was very important. I am sure I will have more questions the next time I do this; however, talking about the various tests and then actually DOING the tests helped me understand the process more. We performed several tests on tap water to get a feel for the tests. I'd recently done science kit explorations with my 4-year-old. It really is neat to see the reaction!

In the afternoon, we walked down to the Little Elkhart River. We went through the various types of testing we can do on the water. One includes making observations on the physical surroundings--the vegetation on the banks of the water, the width of the river in various spots, the velocity, and more.

Then we got out the testing kits for chemical tests. We measured the ph, dissolvable oxygen, and more. While we practiced the mathematical equations to go with the tests, all that is needed is to understand the process enough to enter the data on the Hoosier Riverwatch website. It will do all the mathematical processing that is needed. Krista Daniels, the instructor, mentioned the chemistry and math is what often scares participants, but she walked us through the process and reassured us it was easy to do. 

Later, we started scooping for macroinvertabrates. There is a specific procedure to do this--the consistency helps have more accurate results in this citizen scientist project. I think for many of us, this was the funnest part--finding all these squirming and wiggling things in the water! Different macroinvertabrates have varying tolerance levels for pollutants in the water. The water in this section is VERY good, with several sensitive macroinvertabrates present.

So, who is Hoosier Riverwatch for? If you care about water, it could be for you! There were a couple of teachers in our group who will use this with their students, a grandmother who lives on a river and might do activities with her grandchildren, a couple with a ditch on their family farm, and others from Woodlawn Nature Center exploring the resources around them. I'd like to do this with my older children as a family affair and will use the information in sharing about our valuable resource, water!