April 19, 2018 | Jonathan Lok, BLC Board Member and Stream Team Member
To preserve land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife... I can think of few more worthwhile pursuits. All these elements are essential for a thriving, rooted community, and yet many may seem at arm’s length from what we can affect as individuals. Many of us ask ourselves, beyond supporting and engaging in your local, accredited land trust, what other ways can we become the environmental stewards we strive to be?
We live in an area where the growing public, diverse wildlife and fauna, and expanding development coexist. Access to clean water is a feature that is often taken for granted. Nonpoint source pollution (pollution from many diffuse sources) affects water quality as runoff deposits into our rivers and streams. Such a pernicious threat endangers access to clean water and potentially wildlife and recreation in urban environments. However, there are ways individuals can contribute to the understanding of what is happening to our waters and be the “boots in the water” throughout the vast area where we live.
The Texas Stream Team is a citizen science and outreach program established through a collaboration between The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the EPA. The program increases public knowledge of water quality issues through trained volunteers who conduct water quality monitoring on their local lakes, rivers, and streams across the state. The data, recorded monthly, provide the foundation for understanding present surface water quality conditions, thereby revealing past and future trends. Further, it supplements professional data collection since nonpoint source water pollution by its nature is episodic, difficult to predict, and emanates from many locations. Therefore, trained monitors act as natural resource witnesses to potential polluting events.
At the Bayou Land Conservancy, we have leveraged this program and our engaged Ambassadors to form a committed group of water quality monitors. Our Land Stewardship Director, Suzanne Simpson, identified strategic sites in our focus area where we are deploying our growing team of 12 volunteers. The Texas Stream Team training is administered in our region by the Houston-Galveston Area Council and offered quarterly throughout the Gulf Coast region (link). The training and certification are completed in two concise sessions and the monthly testing is done at a single location going forward. No technical background is required, only a commitment to data integrity and monthly testing. Like the Spring Creek Greenway Ambassador program, there is no cost to attend the training.
Forming and coordinating this team, as well as being a monitor myself, has been one of the most rewarding programs I’ve been involved with since joining the BLC in 2015 (Ambassador Group V). I get to meet other environmentally compassionate volunteers, interact with the community, learn about water issues, and share the experience with my children. I cannot help but smile when I think of my monitoring site (Canoe Launch at Pundt Park), and personally consider it as my own little piece of nature that I steward.
If you are interested in joining the team or to learn more, please feel to contact me.
BLC's Stream Team Testing Sites