Naturalists Monitor Ellis County Waterways
Eileen Berger, Indian Trail Master Naturalist
Throughout history, settlers have selected home sites based on the availability of clean, plentiful water. Whether it was from rivers or streams, springs or wells, they could not stay long in a place if there was no source of water. It is no different for us. We insist on having water when we need it, and may even take that blessing for granted. Thanks to the planning and foresight of our forefathers, we have reservoirs with mighty dams impounding water on multiple Texas rivers . What about the water flowing in those streams and rivers? Is it healthy? Who is checking to see that it is?
The Texas Commision on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) both are concerned with ensuring the quality of our water. However, considering the budgetary constraints inherent in recessionary times, there are not enough people to test as many times in as many places as would be optimum. In 1991, the need for more workers led to the formation of Texas Stream Team, in partnership with TCEQ and EPA. Statewide, 1,400 volunteers-adults, teens, children, teachers and parents- trained by qualified educators, take on the labor-intensive jobs of monitoring sites in lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, bays, bayous and estuaries throughout Texas. Individuals and groups choose their sites, monitor on a monthly basis, and send the information to Texas State University River Systems Institute in San Marcos, Texas.
Members of the Indian Trail chapter of Texas Master Naturalists recently were trained to become a part of the Texas Stream Team. We learned the steps necessay to test for water acidity, levels of dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and the presence of E. coli. Each test was performed two times in the classroom, and then in the field – a convienient location along Waxahahie Creek.
Since the March training, several Master Naturalist water-testing teams have begun monthly checks of Ellis County creeks including: Red Oak , South Prong, Waxahachie and Mustang. It takes from one to two hours to test each site, not counting travel time. When you consider the expense of paying an individual $20. per hour, which is the accepted value assigned by the state, the use of interested volunteers is a wise practice saving tax-payers considerable funds.
For more information about Texas Stream, visit their website