Annual Macroinvertebrate Survey

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Volunteers Needed for Water Quality Assessment of Pomperaug River

For the seventh year in a row, the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition is looking for volunteers to help determine the health of the Pomperaug River and streams that it.  A healthy river and watershed means clean water for Bethlehem, Southbury, and Woodbury, the main towns in the Pomperaug Watershed.  Volunteers will be trained, then go out in teams to certain stretches of the river and collect the tiny creatures, called macroinvertebrates, which are good indicators of water quality. 

This year’s Macroinvertebrate Survey will take place on Saturday, September 15, from 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. at the Woodbury Emergency Services Building located at the corner of Quassuk Road and Route 6.  Volunteers begin the day by learning about macroinvertebrates, why they are collected, and how to collect them.   Then, they will be split into teams of three to four people and assigned one of the eleven sites to be surveyed.  Using nets, volunteers will capture the small river-dwelling creatures, which spend part of their life cycle underwater, clinging to rocks or zipping along in fast-moving river and streams. 

Volunteers will bring their samples back to the Emergency Services Building to sort out and identify the macroinvertebrates they collected.  Some of the species, such as some mayfly and stonefly larvae, are extremely fussy about their environmental conditions; the temperature, oxygen levels, and cleanliness of the water have to be just right for them to survive.  Such species serve as indicators of excellent water quality; being as fussy as they are, their absence may mean the river or stream is in trouble.  

After the “river bugs” are collected, sorted and identified, a voucher sample and a data sheet are prepared.  These are provided to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for verification.  The findings provide a general assessment of river health and the data are included in the DEEP’s annual water quality report to Congress.  The DEEP is mandated by the federal Clean Water act to monitor water quality of the wadeable rivers and streams.  With nearly 6,000 miles of flowing water in Connecticut, volunteers are a huge asset to determine the health of the State’s rivers and streams.  

“This year, we plan to survey the same 11 sites we visit year after year.  We do this so we can make comparisons and note any changes.  We’ll need about 40 volunteers to complete all of the surveys in one day – and more volunteers would be fantastic!” says Carol Haskins, PRWC Outreach Director. 

Ingrid Davis, volunteer Project Coordinator, commented, “Weather is always the wild card when you are doing field work.  We’re really hoping Mother Nature smiles on us this year so we can complete all of the surveys on a single day and we don’t have to revert to our back-up plan for getting the surveys done.”  

Bad weather and/or unsafe streamflow conditions have often forced the Coalition to implement to Plan B or Plan C.  In the case of unsafe conditions, a back-up date scheduled for Sunday September 23rd at the Woodbury Emergency Services Building.  If conditions on that date are still uncooperative, Plan C goes into effect.  Plan C is to round up volunteers when they are available and survey the sites as conditions permit. 

Adults and children over age 12 (with an adult) are welcome to participate.  To sign up to volunteer, call 203-263-0076 or email events@pomperaug.org.  Dress to wade in the water.  Morning refreshments and lunch will be provided.   The survey will go on in light rain, but high streamflow conditions, downpours, or thunder will postpone the survey.  Volunteers who pre-register for the survey will be notified of any cancellations in the case of unsafe survey conditions.  For more information, visit www.pomperaug.org


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