Water quality is a major issue not only here in the Pacific Northwest but all over the world. Local Olympian students, grade 4th through high school, are taking a closer inspection to truly see if the water quality in their neighborhood is healthy with the help of South Sound GREEN (Global Rivers Environmental Education Network). South Sound GREEN is a watershed education program in Thurston County that educates, empowers, and connects about 50 classrooms and 1200 students in watershed studies annually. Students conduct stream investigation that include water quality monitoring, benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, and projects to improve the watershed.
At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, I went into classrooms to teach the students what is a watershed, how humans influence water quality, and what are the best optimal standards for water quality (which of course are based on salmon… we are in the PNW!). Many students think watersheds are tanks that hold water for houses, when in reality watershed are areas drained by a river system, or other bodies of water. Or they believe that woody debris lying in the stream is bad rather than seeing great habitat for aquatic life. After learning about good examples of riparian zones and acceptable water quality standards, we take the 1231 students and 143 teachers/volunteers outdoors to test the waters.
In February and October, I went out with the classes to sample water from their adopted creeks, lake, or beach to conduct tests for dissolved oxygen, turbidity, nitrates, pH, temperature, and fecal coliform bacteria. Once the data is collected the students then compare these numbers to the previous sampling data, noting patterns and trends. By analyzing the data, students have a better understanding of point source pollution and non-point source pollution in their watershed. They can then come up with an action project that will help lessen the impacts of human activity and improve water quality at their testing sites.
This data collection and analysis will prepare them for attended the annual Student GREEN Congress where student delegates present their data and discuss the health of their watershed with other students to find out how they can protect their watershed.
So I ask, how clean is your stream?