The Eyes of Conservation

The Eyes of Conservation

Submitted by Debbie Sharpton,
SWCFFF Conservation Director

There are many good laws on the books of our society – the Clean Water Act of 1972 is one of them.  It’s hard to believe it is over 40 years old, and although the big polluters were the first targets, the hardest one for everyone to get their hands around is what is called “non-point source pollution”.  This is the type that comes from many different points instead of one discharge pipe.

In California the Sate Water Board and its multiple regional water quality control boards are responsible, and under court order, to create and implement the regulations to meet the Clean Water Act objectives.  Several regulations have been in place dealing with acceptable levels of pollutants in waters of the state, one being trash.  The acceptable level of trash in the water is zero.  That’s a pretty lofty goal, but how could anyone say that trash is acceptable at any other level?  There was much resistance from the jurisdictional agencies but the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board passed the regulation some time ago.  This means that agencies must do their part in cleaning up trash from the waters, if they don’t they stand to be in violation of the regulation and their permits.

Several years ago Erick Burres, Conservation Biologist and head of the State’s Clean Water Team, passed on some great information about how people can be part of the solution.  Here is an excerpt form the IBM Research Lab’s internet site about one of the great things Erick is doing;

Water is one of our most precious resources -- vital for our survival. This week, its significance of those facts is highlighted in several commemorations: World Water Day and World Water Monitoring Day on March 22, and Earth Day (International) on March 27.

Protecting and improving water quality are extremely important issues for all societies. And now with the Creek Watch iPhone App, every time a person sees a stream they can take a photo of it to help collect water quality data such as: 

  1.  What is the amount of water?
  2. What is the rate of flow? 
  3. And what is the amount of trash?

 … all based on location and the photograph.

Citizen Science

Over the years, water quality concern has prompted a rise in citizen science of monitoring streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans. These activities have included collecting water quality data, evaluating fish and wildlife habitat, or making visual observations of stream health.

In California, as in other regions, citizen water quality monitors have been collecting water quality data for more than a decade, saving government agencies many tens of millions of dollars in monitoring costs and providing water quality data that would otherwise not get collected. Citizen data are being used to guide local watershed management and are a critical element of regional and statewide assessments of surface water quality for drinking, fishing, swimming, ecosystem health and other beneficial uses.  

The Creek Watch App is useful in promoting all of these efforts. It turns all of us into scientists, contributing water quality data -- data that can lead to increased understanding and protection of the very water that we use and need. Creek Watch as a learning tool introduces people to their streams and water quality concepts. It is also great crowd-sourcing tool that collects much needed water quality data from around the world. Additionally, Creek Watch provides a tool that enables individuals and groups to build monitoring programs with, and answer local questions about, water supply and water quality.  

Water quality depends on all of us. So join the Clean Water Team by downloading the Creek Watch App to start monitoring the creeks, streams and rivers in your community.

Erick Burres is a conservation biologist that has been involved with many projects benefiting the protection of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, the species that depend on those habitats and the recovery of threatened and endangered species. Mr. Burres has a Master of Public Administration degree from California State University Long Beach and a Bachelors of Science in Zoology from San Diego State University. He has worked for non-profit organizations, private businesses and government agencies. His goals have been to actualize constructive and sustainable environmental stewardship activities by enrolling citizens in conservation management activities. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles and leads the state’s Citizen Monitoring Program, the Clean Water Team. An app like Creek Watch was a dream of his and on the Clean Water Team’s wish list. He is thankful that IBM created Creek Watch and shared an interest in promoting environmental education, citizen monitoring and water quality.