Stream Monitoring to Begin June 15
Hundreds of small rivers, streams, creeks and brooks meander through Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris counties’ mostly-rural landscapes, eventually joining to form the North and South Branches of the Raritan River.
How clean are the waters of these streams? Can you safely wade, swim, fish and paddle in them?
These are questions that Raritan Headwaters, the region’s watershed watchdog, has been investigating and reporting to the public for almost 60 years through its annual stream monitoring program.
Raritan Headwaters is currently gearing up for our stream monitoring season during the last two weeks in June. Every year, RHA-trained community volunteers and staff members check water quality at more than 60 long-term monitoring sites in the watershed. The program has been expanding since 2013 with the goal of at least one stream monitoring site in each of our 52 subwatersheds. Five new stream sites will be added to the program in 2017 and our program expansion will be complete! View a map of all the stream sites on the monitoring list can be found.
In preparation for our upcoming stream monitoring season, 37 new and returning volunteers attended our stream monitoring training sessions on April 29 and 30.
Working in teams, volunteers and staff will visit the sites to assess stream characteristics, weather conditions, land use patterns, water uses and suitability of surrounding habitat for wildlife. Volunteers also measure air and water temperature and calculate stream flow.
Using nets, they will conduct biological assessments to find out what creatures are living in the streams. A diversity of organisms is good news, especially the presence of a diverse community of “benthic macroinvertebrates” – creatures that live at the bottom of streams and are large enough to see without a microscope. Three particular macroinvertebrates – the larvae of mayflies, stoneflies and case-building caddisflies – are especially sensitive to pollutants, so discovering them in a stream is an indication of good water quality.
Raritan Headwaters is still looking for additional stream monitors, especially residents living in Glen Gardner, Clinton Town, Clinton Township, Franklin Township, Lebanon Township, and Union Township to assist with these new stream monitoring sites. This year’s final beginner stream monitor training will take place on Saturday, June 10, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Fairview Farm in Bedminster. Anyone interested in becoming a stream monitor may register here.
For the first time, Raritan Headwaters will have three interns supporting our stream monitoring program. Stephanie Beck is in the midst of coordinating the volunteers’ monitoring schedules and preparing the stream monitoring kits. Carmine Ricciardi and Charlie Fischer will be responsible for collecting baseline chemical data at our stream monitoring sites using our water quality meter for dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, pH, water temperature, and orthophosphate. Water samples will be sent to the lab for nitrate and bacteria analysis.