Volunteers Essential to Monitoring Water Quality in Utah

Jul 16, 2012

Utah State Extension and the Utah Division of Water Quality are teaming up to monitor the waterways of Utah for pathogens. This research program has trained volunteers wading in streams taking samples as a part of a new program: Utah Water Watch

It's a warm summer, and many families, including Heather DeWitt's are traveling to watery destinations in the state. DeWitt is from Eagle Mountain and took her family to Bear Lake to enjoy the water. On the way, they stopped to wade in First Dam in Logan Canyon.  

"This is one of the areas we have our volunteers monitor," said Brian Green, program coordinator for the new state-wide volunteer project. "We were out here last week checking this area for e-coli and water temperature and p-H and such."

 The river passed on all accounts, and is safe for families. 

The Utah Water Watch project was created to educate and inform the public about the importance of water quality. Program volunteers of all ages are collecting scientific data on lakes and streams in Utah.  

"Volunteers contact me
 and say they're interested in the program, and fill out a volunteer registration form, and the next step is to  go through a training." 

 With more than 89,000 miles of streams and 2,000 lakes in Utah Green says volunteers who collect samples are a must if the project is going to be successful.  

"We teach them about water quality, the science behind it, how our use of land  can influence that, and then we teach them how to actually go out and use the equipment and measure the water quality. We teach them about water quality laws. We give them an overall view of what it is to be a scientist and why it's important to measure water quality. Make sure our aquatic resources are protected, that they're safe and people are able to go out and enjoy lakes and streams." 

 Dan Miller is executive director for the Bear River Watershed Council. The council is overseeing projects to protect and maintain the water quality along the bear river. To do this, Miller said his organization has partnered with Utah Water Watch.  

"These resources are our resources, and this is an opportunity for us to give back. Lend a hand, go visit your favorite stream and actually see what's happening in the water. We're trying to demystify the science, and you can be a scientist. We can train you how to accurately measure water quality. It's  very empowering to take them out there and have someone be able to look at their favorite stream or lake and have them say 'Oh I can measure this, and I can determine whether the water quality is good.' And that's why we're excited to partner with organizations like the Bear River Watershed Council," Green said. 

 The data will be used by the division of water quality to find ways to protect streams in the national forests and to help make changes in local communities and, says Green, to make changes in the world.  

"We want everyone to be able to go out, go fish, go swim in the lakes. We have some incredible streams and lakes here in Utah and we want everyone to be able to make sure they're protected for a long time." 

 The next step for the public is to get involved. The Utah Water Watch project and Bear River Watershed Council are looking for volunteers to monitor water in Northern Utah streams.  The first volunteer workshop to train is scheduled for Saturday July 21.