As I pile nets, data sheets, tables, and pair after pair of hip waders into my tiny sedan, I am getting excited for my weekend trip to train a group of new and enthusiastic volunteers. It is supposed to be partly sunny and 65 degrees, the perfect weather for hiking, fishing, kayaking – and water quality monitoring. Packing my car like a game of Tetris, I look like I could be setting off for the world’s most epic fishing adventure. That got me thinking about the connections between clean water and outdoor recreation, and I wondered: why is there only one World Water Monitoring Day when we should be monitoring water quality all year long?
The goal of the Izaak Walton League’s Clean Water Challenge is to mobilize volunteers to monitor 100,000 more stream sites by 2022 and improve water quality in streams nationwide. Why? Here are just a few reasons:
- More than one-third of Americans get their drinking water from rivers and streams. Yes, drinking water does get filtered and cleaned between the stream and your tap. But that technology is not capable of removing all pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals and road salt, from source waters. The cleaner our streams are, the cleaner our drinking water is as well.
- Clean water and outdoor recreation go hand-in-hand. Water pollution damages fish habitat and spawning areas, so clean water means more fish and better fishing. Kayaking is more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about getting sick from the water dripping off your paddle. Even hiking improves when clean water supports more healthy and more diverse plant and wildlife species.
- Healthy streams are vital to the seafood industry. Ultimately all the runoff from a watershed accumulates where fisheries are most productive, including the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico. So if you enjoy blue crabs or red snapper, you rely on clean streams as well.
We invite you to join the Clean Water Challenge to help improve quality in your community. Getting started can be as simple as taking a Stream Selfie and posting it to our website with answers to a few questions about your favorite stream. Stream clean-ups are another small step that can make big improvements in water quality.
Ready to get your feet wet with stream monitoring? The League’s Save Our Streams program offers all the tools and tips you need to get started, including video tutorials and equipment lists. Check our Clean Water Workshops schedule for upcoming trainings or put in your own request. This fall we have already trained more than 80 new stream monitors who will help add stream sites to our 100,000 goal.
If you are already monitoring a local stream site, please consider adopting another site nearby. This will provide a more comprehensive view of local water quality – and move us all one site closer to clean water nationwide.
See you in the stream. Don’t forget your net!
IWLA Save Our Streams Coordinator Samantha Roth Briggs always has a pair of waders in her car, ready for the next stream monitor training!