Testing in store for watershed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2001

Clean-water advocates are volunteering to monitor local lakes and streams, but many more are needed to gather data, water experts say.

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Clean-water advocates are volunteering to monitor local lakes and streams, but many more are needed to gather data, water experts say.

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County watershed field technician Andy Henschel and three Freeborn County residents have already committed to periodic water testing. They recently attended an Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) workshop to learn how, Henschel said.

Using equipment provided by the IDNR, the volunteers will test designated water sources for phosphates, dissolved oxygen, nitrates, and acidity, Henschel said. They will identify insects in the habitat to determine the amount of pollution, and calculate the stream flow and document vegetation. In addition, Henschel will test areas for bacterial content.

The data they collect will be included in a public database on Iowa water sources, and benefit local water cleanup efforts, Henschel said.

&uot;It’s a way to get people that say they’re interested to get out and start (helping),&uot; Henschel said.

Participants have agreed to test Bancroft Creek, Wedge Creek and the Shell Rock River, and may begin some lake testing. Many more volunteers are needed to help with the project, Henschel said.

&uot;I’m hoping we can get one for every ditch and stream,&uot; he said. &uot;But I’d like to see at least 20.&uot;

Henschel encourages teachers to volunteer for training. IoWater will give teachers five extra testing kits to use in classroom instruction, Henschel said. The program would be an excellent teaching tool for junior high and high school classes, he said.

&uot;Mostly they ask you to get down in the stream, sort of play with it and look at the bugs,&uot; he said.

IoWater began offering workshops in 1999 to facilitate widespread water testing in Iowa. Since several Freeborn County watersheds flow directly into Iowa, the IDNR has extended the project into certain areas of the county, he said.

Volunteers receive testing kits and instructions from the IDNR. In exchange, they agree to regularly test a specific area of water. To complement the volunteer effort, Henschel will take water samples for professional lab analysis.

Henschel also hopes to forward the data to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for use in statewide analysis and programs.

Gathering data is the first step to identifying sources of pollutants in the county water system. It will help the county obtain funding and prioritize water cleanup efforts, he said.

&uot;What we’re hoping to do is use this data in the future to help us in our grant writing,&uot; he said. &uot;To show what our numbers are and what we want to control.&uot;

The next IoWater workshop will be held in Mason City, Iowa Aug. 7 and 8 from 5 to 10 p.m., Henschel said. Freeborn County will pay the registration fee for volunteers, and possibly arrange transportation.

More information on the IoWater project, and links to maps, data and other resources is available on their Web site at www.iowater.net. Anyone interested in volunteering to test Freeborn County water sources, or in accompanying a testing crew, should contact Henschel at 377-5186.