KCWaterBug

The Devil’s Corner

By Regina Klepikow

 
     I grew up in South Texas. My father’s family was from Laredo, Texas and occupied a half a block of El Rincon del Diablo, the Devils Corner for years and still do to this very day. My father was born on one of the first streets in America, Ventura Street. The house he grew up in had minimal luxuries and his back yard was the Rio Grande. As a child, my brothers and I would visit our aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived there. We would play kick ball in the open area next to our families’ houses. We could clearly see the U.S Border Patrol Bridge and across that Mexico. We used to explore the edge of the Rio Grande and skip rocks across its waters. When I was walking along the banks, I could clearly see trails and personal belongings that others had left behind. Into the dark murky waters of the Rio Grande, I watched even darker waters pouring into the river from drains and spouts at various points along the bank. As a kid, no one really thinks of water quality and the health impacts of poor waters; but I thought in my mind that something was amiss.

 

     Growing up, I always wondered who was in charge of the river. I thought there has to be someone out there that checks up on this. As I did some research, I found some articles written by EPA about the water quality of the Rio Grande, and realized that Mexico was not subject to our policies. Upon entering college, I wrote an essay about Water Quality in the Rio Grande for a scholarship.

     Now that I am out of college and an EPA employee, I have learned a lot about our nation’s water bodies. I feel that I am an important part of analyzing our water quality here in Region 7. I have analyzed water samples for inorganic contaminants, nutrients, and currently for microbiological contaminants. I never thought that I would ever be doing something that pertained to my scholarship essay or my childhood thoughts. It seems as though it has all come full circle.

     Region 7 has a great app called KCWaterBug.  During warmer months, I use this app a lot. My daughter and I love to go out to our local creeks and rivers to look for fossils and insects. She has a large insect collection and we are building on our fossil collection. Upon checking the app, my daughter and I will determine if we will go to a nearby stream or wait for another day. If the water quality is good, we go on a little hike. It is fun to pass time by skipping rocks and following the banks and turning over rocks. It is even better when we come across fossils like Rugose coral or fossilized bivalves. We have also run across others who search for fossils or arrowheads along the banks too. Hopefully some day, my daughter will recall our fossil hunting trips as fondly as I remember skipping rocks back near the Devil’s Corner. I know she is just as interested in learning how to restore and preserve our waters for the two of us to enjoy, and one day, for her own children.

 

Regina Klepikow was born and grew up in south Texas. She relocated to Kansas City with her family in the 90’s where she attended high school and college. She loves art and photography but not wanting to live the life of a starving artist she majored in Biology. Currently she is a Life Scientist at the Region 7 Laboratory. In order to let her artistic creativity out, she has devoted herself iPhone photography and is avid Instagrammer.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Whats in Your Water – KCWaterBug

By Jeffery Robichaud

Last week EPA Headquarters released a new app entitled How’s My Waterway.  If you live in Kansas City, you also have access to another new application with the catchy name KCWaterBug.

Several years ago, EPA’s Kansas City office embraced a goal of reconnecting citizens in urban environments to their local waters.  Initially this involved the establishment of a website and collaborative group (KCWaters.org) in concert with the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC), where citizens could access information and data on the lakes and streams in their neighborhoods, from multiple agencies and groups in one simple location.  

In 2011, EPA embarked upon a second phase of the project; to provide real-time awareness of the quality of local waters so citizens could make informed decisions about recreation.  Scientists at United States Geological Survey in Lawrence, Kansas had developed an innovative approach for estimating bacteria concentrations based on basic water quality parameters (which can be seen here).  Building on EPA’s existing Kansas City Urban Stream Monitoring network,  EPA scientists collected paired e-coli and turbidity samples over the course of 2011, to develop a dataset sufficient to establish the necessary relationship.  Next, EPA installed real-time water quality monitoring stations using in-stream probes and satellite telemetry. 

 

Data from the stations is transmitted once an hour via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES satellites  to servers at the University of Missouri Kansas City, where estimated E-coli concentrations are calculated using turbidity measurements and regression equations for each monitoring location (the graph below shows turbidity and estimated E-coli within the database). 

 

An hourly average estimated E-coli concentration is calculated and each stream is assigned a colored code based on an index tied to health protective levels (shown below). 

Blue denotes that the water is estimated to have E-coli concentrations that are acceptable for all forms of recreation including swimming, while Red denotes contact with water is not advised.  (Green portrays water that is acceptable for wading and splashing while Yellow denotes water that is acceptable for activities which minimally contact water).  The index was established through consideration of USEPA, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and Missouri Department of Natural Resources water quality criteria for bacteria.

You can download the app for free from both the iTunes store  for apple mobile devices and Google Play for Android devices.  But make sure and hurry up and download these soon, since the weather is starting to get cold and we will be pulling the probes out of the water before too long.  Next Spring we are adding seven more streams to the network, but until then get out and enjoy a walk along your local creek.  You’ll be glad you did.

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division.  He uses KCWaterBug on his iPad before taking the family dog for a walk along Line Creek.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.