For 10 years, the Schoharie River Center has enlisted at-risk youth to test the water quality of Schoharie Creek and share samples with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
This spring, the nature center in Esperance is one of eight training sites for the state’s Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators project, which encourages people across the state to get involved with the same water-testing work.
Through WAVE, which was launched in 2012, participants visit stream sites once a year, between July and September, and collect macroinvertebrates from the rocks and rubble at the bottom of streams.
“If you like going outdoors and working outdoors and seeing nature, this is a wonderful way to open up a whole new world,” said John McKeeby, Schoharie River Center executive director.
“Most people don’t realize what kind of life, in terms of insect life, is occurring in these local streams.”
While the DEC regularly receives information from the public to consider in its water quality assessments, the WAVE program provides information about how to collect data most useful to the agency, according to a news release. Data collected by volunteers is used to augment the work of the DEC Stream Biomonitoring Unit, which samples streams and rivers across the state to create an inventory of stream water quality.
The data are included in federal and state water quality reports and helps focus professional assessments and local restoration and conservation efforts.
“Responsible environmental stewardship starts with everyday residents who have an interest in protecting and conserving natural resources we all rely on,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in the news release. “I invite volunteers to register for this worthwhile training to work alongside DEC professionals to identify water quality concerns.”
The training sessions take place at the state’s 17 major drainage basins on a rotating five-year schedule. This spring, there are eight training sessions in the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and Mohawk River basins, with local sessions in Alplaus on May 17 and at the Schoharie River Center on June 14.
Coordinators will need to be on site from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with basic WAVE training from noon to 4 p.m.
To register, email WAVE Coordinator Alene Onion at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the Schoharie River Center, the water quality monitoring has been done by students in the year-round Environmental Study Team program. The program is geared toward at-risk youths and currently has about 75 students in grades 7-12 from nine school districts in Schenectady, Schoharie, Montgomery and Albany counties, McKeeby said.
With about 22,000 lakes, rivers and streams across the state and limited resources, programs such as the Environmental Study Team are an example of how citizens can contribute to the state’s ongoing water quality monitoring efforts, he said.
“When New York state decided to develop the WAVE program, we jumped on board because it was another good opportunity to be able to provide some training to the public — not just youth, but to the public — in how to do water quality monitoring locally,” McKeeby said. “And it’s a methodology that will provide the state with water quality data.”