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By Tom Damm

So why do volunteers put in the time, effort and some expense to wade through streams, scooping up water samples and batches of tiny bugs?Stream-Monitoring

Mostly, it’s “for the love of their local stream,” says Bill Richardson, regional monitoring coordinator in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Water Protection Division.

Bill is helping to coordinate a training conference in Shepherdstown, WV, that will bring together volunteer monitoring groups to share strategic plans, recruiting tips and success stories.  Registration for the August 9-10 conference sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is open until July 26. Abstracts can be submitted until July 12.

Trained volunteers play an essential role in assessing the condition of local streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

You’ll see them slogging along in hip waders or hunched over stream banks to collect samples that help indicate the quality of the water.  They use test kits to measure total nitrogen and phosphorus, special nets to troll for aquatic insects, and hand-held meters to check for levels of dissolved oxygen, pH, and temperature.  Others are busy scribbling field observations of habitat, land uses and the impacts of storms.

The data can help state and local agencies screen water for potential problems, establish baseline conditions or evaluate the success of cleanup practices.

Sound like something you’d be interested in?  You can find volunteer monitoring programs where you live by accessing this link.  For more information on monitoring, contact Bill Richardson at

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.