Lake Champlain starts volunteer monitoring programme

23 June 2012

One of the biggest problems constraining dealing with water quality issues is the general lack of understanding about the problem.  Many people have, for example, heard about eutrophication, but only have a very limited knowledge of the causes and effects.  In South Africa we have a cyclical problem in that, because the need to address eutrophication has been ignored for so long, even those tasked with doing something about it have virtually no practical experience of the problems and their origins.  This, invariably, results in a cycle of studies to try and define an already well-defined problem, with equally well-defined solutions.

We don’t need to know more about the problem, we need to do something about it.  In order to do this properly, the associated levels of awareness and education need to be raised – across a range of strata from national regulator staffers to the man in the street.  As I have said, often, sleeves need to be rolled up and problems addressed, not merely described in different terms again and again.

One way of raising awareness is to employ an approach that has borne fruit in the US, namely Volunteer Monitoring.  An example is the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) who, since 2003, have adopted this approach to gather data on a regular and wide scale and, at the same time, educating the public.  Another example would be the Secchi Dip-In initiative run by the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS).  Here is a summary of what the LCC expect from their volunteers:

Volunteers will need to monitor their designated location between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, fill out an observation form about the conditions, and email it to LCC by Tuesday at noon each week. In the event that a bloom is seen or suspected they will need to submit digital photo documentation by email as well.

Volunteers must attend an LCC training session, monitor a specific location once per week through the summer season (July through Labor Day) and report results via LCC’s online form. In particular, we are seeking volunteers with access to the lake near areas where recreation and contact with the water occurs. Actual monitoring will probably average less than one half hour per week, not including any transit. However, more time may be required during suspected or actual blooms.

This is a learning-by-doing approach that is by no means onerous and should work well in just about any country.

The algal bloom in Massachusetts Charles River is still in effect. In Kansas, The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Thursday lifted health advisories at Milford Lake, Marion Reservoir and Winfield City Lake.  The state continues its advisory at Old Herington City Lake in Dickinson County, Cedar Bluff Reservoir in Trego County and Lovewell Reservoir in Jewell County.  Lakes under a warning are Logan City Lake in Phillips County and Veterans Lake in Great Bend. An advisory means direct contact with the water is discouraged for people, pets and livestock. A warning means the lakes contain high levels of the algae and contact with the water is prohibited.

Minnesota has released a report on an inventory of its wetlands, revealing the following:

  • Minnesota has 10.6 million acres of wetlands, which comprise 19.7 percent of the state’s land cover, not counting deep lakes and rivers.
  • Plant communities are in good condition in only 29 percent of Minnesota’s depressional wetlands, while 25 percent are in fair condition and 46 percent are in poor condition.
  • Macroinvertebrate communities are in better condition with estimates of 47 percent good, 33 percent fair, and 20 percent poor.
  • Forested wetlands make up 4.4 million acres and are the most common wetland type in Minnesota, followed by emergent wetlands (shallow marshes, wet meadows), shrub swamps, and deep marshes/ponds.
In 2006, the State started the wetland monitoring program to assess status and trends of both wetland quantity and quality. Sampling for both the wetland quantity and quality monitoring programs is done on a repeating, multi-year cycle. The results from the initial reports serve as a baseline that will allow the agencies to compare future data to reveal trends for wetland quality and quantity. The information will allow the state to begin to understand whether policies, regulations, and incentives are achieving their goals.

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