Monitoring your stream health
The water quality tests done through Waterwatch can include any or all of the following tests depending on the information needs of your project. Your local Waterwatch Co-ordinator can help you to design a testing program from the following tests:
- Temperature (Changes in temperature)
- Turbidity (Clarity of water)
- Total Dissolved Solids (A measure of dissolved salts in the water)
- Conductivity ( measure of salinity levels)
- pH (acidity of the water)
- Oxygen (the amount of Oxygen in the water)
- Phosphates (an important nutrient that feeds growth of algae)
- Faecal coliform (measure of sewage or animal wastes)
Monitoring programs need to be well thought out so that the right thing is being monitored, at the right frequency, with the right equipment, and using the right techniques. After doing your catchment investigation, you will be able to discuss with your Waterwatch Co-ordinator the type of testing that you need to do, when to test and the equipment you will use.
The monitoring program will vary depending upon your time available, budget, and accuracy needs. The manual includes a checklist to get you started, and tips on things to watch out for. For example, a group monitoring a swimming hole may wish to check for faecal coliform (which is an indicator for swimming), temperature and pH, and choose to not do some of the other tests. Other groups concerned about nutrient levels may choose to do phosphate tests, dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen demand tests, and ignore faecal coliform.
Remember, one of the key objectives of Waterwatch is to have fun. It's easy to get so caught up in a project that you forget to have fun.
Two key things to remember are the NSW Water Bug Survey, and National Waterweek.
NSW Water Bug Survey
The NSW Water Bug Survey is a twice yearly activity where group's test for "water bugs" to help get a picture of how healthy their waterway is. The tiny creatures that live in water vary in their sensitivity to changes in the water. In highly disturbed poor water quality streams, only the very hardy bugs that are not sensitive to changes will be present. In good quality streams, water bugs that are sensitive to change will also be found.
You would be amazed how much fun you can have looking through magnifying glasses to see what sort of bugs your stream has. The bug survey is a great way of getting local children and adults to understand more about their local environment. They may not understand why a polluted stream is a bad thing in itself, but if they see the little animals that may get killed if a stream becomes polluted, they get a much clearer idea of how pollution can effect the environment. For more information, visit www.bugsurvey.nsw.gov.au
National Waterweek is held in October of each year. If you are planning a promotional or educational activity, it's often a good idea to list it as part of the national waterweek celebrations. Each year, the Department of Land and Water Conservation lists a program of activities happening across NSW.