Our water quality monitoring days are a huge hit with the students in our program. They feel excited to not only spend time outdoors next to a stream, but also to sample and test the water. The students have already seen a presentation about the importance of water quality for salmon survival and public health. Now they have their chance to apply their newfound knowledge in a practical setting. They’ve learned the standards for salmon health, they’ve practiced the tests, and now it’s their turn to report back to us how their monitoring sites are doing in regards to those standards.
Water quality standards are different depending on the use of the water. Drinking water and salmon health are just two examples of water uses defined by the state. We focus our testing on standards for salmon. There are 35+ monitoring sites within the Nisqually watershed including sites on Ohop, Mashel, and Nisqually. In the end nearly 1000 students conduct the tests on the same day at these various sites and become a part of this awesome service-learning project.
Testing includes fecal coliform, total suspended solids, temperature, nitrates, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and biological oxygen demand. The NREP takes care of the first two, and the students conduct the rest! Students use simple kits that provide results on site with no large and expensive equipment. The latter is partly why the NREP selected the tests that we have now. Testing for heavy metals or PCBs for example requires expensive equipment and a lab. We would love to include those tests, but testing everything is not our goal. We aim to increase the environmental literacy of the students involved.
That environmental literacy extends past water quality monitoring day to the annual Student GREEN Congress held at The Evergreen State College. Tune in next month to learn more!