On Saturday, Oct. 1, Treasure Valley citizen scientists gathered at Martin’s Landing in Parma at the confluence of the Snake and Boise Rivers to monitor water quality. Martin’s Landing was one of more than a dozen sites monitored as part of Watershed Watch, an annual community event organized by the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center. Many of the 45 attendees in Parma were students from College of Western Idaho (CWI) invited by site trainer environmental chemist Rebecca Flock, a Treasure Valley native and faculty at CWI.
The event kicked off by getting into the mud and collecting bugs. Karen Strickler, a Parma resident and CWI biology instructor, helped teams collect aquatic plants, insects, and other macroinvertebrates. Groups checked for invasive species known to cause problems with biodiversity. They also looked for native species uniquely adapted to Idaho’s river ecosystems.
Linda Phillips, representing Parma Research and Extension Center as well as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, demonstrated how erosion can reduce water clarity and quality. Students were awed as the dirt clod from a highly tilled soil rained down tiny dust particles and muddied the water, meanwhile a dirt clod from an un-tilled garden stayed perfectly intact. Students could see that preserving our rivers is closely linked with taking care of the soils throughout the Boise River Watershed.
Bryan Hess, another CWI Chemistry faculty member, gave a demonstration about dissolved gasses and sent teams to measure for water quality parameters of dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH. Flock wrapped up the morning's events with nitrate and phosphorus measurement, nutrient pollutants that have been known to be an issue in the Boise River. Excess nutrients in the water can cause excessive algae growth and potentially mobilize toxins at downstream locations. Flock observed, “We affect each other, and are connected to each other, through our waterways.”
“Our goal with Watershed Watch is to raise community awareness about the health of the Boise River and how we can keep it clean for future generations," said Cindy Busche, education coordinator with the Boise WaterShed.
The data gathered by the citizen scientists will be posted on the Watershed Watch website and may be used by regulatory agencies in their water-quality analyses. The event is co-sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Reclamation, Partners for Clean Water, SUEZ, the cities of Meridian and Caldwell, and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.