Local water monitoring effort gains momentum

By Sunni Heikes-Knapton

Madison Watershed Coordinator

Here’s a riddle for you – what do a retired factory worker, a real estate broker, a fly fishing addict and a kindergartener have in common?

Would you believe they have all been spending time on local streams collecting water quality data? The group may seem unusually diverse, but they share a common thread- they are all motivated and involved with local volunteer water monitoring programs.

Fortunately for our area, there is no shortage of water monitoring opportunities. Locally driven efforts have been established on Jack Creek since 2006, involving Ennis students of many ages. More recently, sites have been established by the Madison Stream Team on O’Dell Creek, Moore Creek, North and South Meadow Creeks, and the West Fork of the Madison River. At all of these sites, local citizens and students have been measuring common indicators of water health; flow, sediment, temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and conductivity.

The skeptical may wonder why water monitoring is being done in an area with a diversity of streams with perceivably good conditions.

“Good question,” states Adam Sigler with the MSU Extension water quality, “It’s easy to drive by our streams and think everything is OK. But when people actually get out on the ground, they can make interesting discoveries and observations. When this happens, people gain a better understanding of our water resources and become advocates for water quality in their region.”

The collected data is already providing answers to questions on overall stream health and the effect of land use. For instance, data for Moore Creek suggests that recent restoration efforts are increasing flows and decreasing temperatures on the lower stretches of that creek.

Getting involved is neither difficult nor technical. Both kindergarten classes from Ennis elementary visited Jack Creek last week, completing a simplified monitoring as part of World Water Monitoring Week.

“What do we know about dirty water?” inquired Betty Klein, kindergarten teacher. The chorus of voices responded

“Turbidity!” came the response.

This is a term they had been learning in their classroom.

Citizens interested in learning more about volunteer water monitoring should contact Sunni Heikes-Knapton, Madison Watershed Coordinator: mwc@3rivers.net.

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