Testing, Testing, WWMD


Thousands of people who enjoy water for swimming, paddling, fishing or merely admiring, will soon be giving a nearby body of water a valuable check-up. The second annual World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD) encourages volunteers to appreciate nature by testing the quality of their local watershed.

WWMD will be held on October 18, the 32nd anniversary of the U.S. Clean Water Act. Last year, school, civic, church and senior groups, as well as families and individuals tested more than 5,200 sites in 24 countries.

"The value (of WWMD) is in the participation aspect," said Stephen McCord, the president of the Riparian Improvement Organization, a volunteer environmental organization from Davis, Calif. McCord said his group worked with children from the area to collect the water samples and collect litter at Lake Solano in Winters, Calif. "The kids got a kick out of using the equipment and learning about the cycle of life from algae to bugs on up," McCord said.

The water monitoring process requires purchasing a test kit that analyzes water quality in four categories: acidity, temperature, amount of dissolved oxygen, and turbidity (clarity). The kits cost $19.95 and describe the meaning of each water characteristic. Organizations can buy the kits in bulk at a discount. Between Sept. 18 and Oct. 18, volunteers can test nearby creeks, lakes, rivers or streams and then enter the results through the WWMD website (worldwatermonitoringday.org).

Ed Moyer, project manager of the WWMD co-sponsor, America's Clean Water Foundation, stressed that there are no prerequisites for scientific knowledge to participate. "The event helps people to become aware of their local watershed," he said. Looking at the results teaches people what makes up a healthy watershed, and "makes them more mindful about allowing pet waste, paint, or fertilizer to get into the water."

"People are engaged more in what is taking place around them," after participating in the event, according to Moyer. He said that people will often go back to monitor the water quality on a monthly basis and assist in periodic clean-up efforts.

Moyer said his group will tabulate the data and make it available online on Feb. 18. "These are the basic indicators of water health," Moyer said, adding that while the validity of the data cannot be guaranteed, it is available to environmental agencies to review, and could prompt more thorough study.

"This event is an educational opportunity for people to experience water quality monitoring first hand so they can begin to connect with their local water resources as personal stewards. By increasing their understanding about the health of their watersheds, we hope to positively impact their behaviors," Moyer said.

Moyer's group works with governmental and environmental organizations to increase awareness about the event in the U.S. The International Water Association works with the global community, which this year includes volunteers from 25 nations.

Moyer said this year the data will become more useful as the collection process will separate volunteers who follow quality assurance/quality control protocols for water testing as a way to ensure accuracy. "The data is made public so that anyone – from Congress to the EPA – can see what's going on."

Murray Rosenberg is one of the most active participants in World Water Monitoring Day. Rosenberg, a project manager at environmental consulting firm CH2MHill, led the company's efforts that resulted in more than 1,500 people collecting just under 600 water samples. Rosenberg and the management staff recruited volunteers from all 56 of the company's North American offices.

"We saw it as a great opportunity to promote professional environmental stewardship; anyone in the company can participate, regardless of their job function," Rosenberg said. He said that participating enables people to understand the "basic health of the watershed, and whether it is capable of supporting life."

Rosenberg plans on getting CH2MHill's international offices involved this year and expects the company will buy even more test kits. "It's good to get out in the community. It goes back to the reasons why we are in the environmental business."

"What we are hoping to achieve is to get people to join their local watershed group and take an interest in things happening in their backyard," said Cathy Milbourn, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is co-sponsoring the event. After they participate in WWMD, many people will have a greater sensitivity to the natural surroundings and will observe habitats, clean up garbage, or join local environmental groups, Milbourn said.

Milbourn said that while the compiled data is not necessarily scientific, "it does help to establish baseline conditions or trends that otherwise that might otherwise go unmonitored." Milbourn said state EPAs could review the data online as a way to screen for potential pollution problems.

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