Posts Tagged ‘Water Quality’

Top ten things I am thankful for . . .

As we head in to Thanksgiving I am reflecting on the many things that I am grateful for.  I am lucky that I find so much to be grateful for in my work.  Just in the past few months, I have a dozen or so things that come to mind:

Pinckney Recreation Area by John Lloyd.

Pinckney Recreation Area by John Lloyd.

  1. The excitement of our partners and donors to the spotting of an osprey on a platform we installed on the river.
  2. Stopping a new wastewater treatment plant from discharging more phosphorus and nitrogen in to the Middle Huron.
  3. The finalization of a new and lower 1,4 Dioxane standard for the drinking water in Michigan that will result in additional clean-up.
  4. My memories of Suds on the River, where over 400 of our community gathered to support HRWC and celebrate clean water.
  5. Achieving a growing number of municipalities to ban cancer-causing pavement sealants with 11 in the watershed and 14 total in the state.
  6. Quantifying the annual economic activity of the river at over $78.6 million!
  7. The joy of kids in the pictures and cards we receive from hundreds of them who participate in our summer snorkeling, rain garden, paddle trips, school field trips, and creek walking programs.
  8. The new commitment of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to fund comprehensive lake monitoring in 100 of the 562 lakes in the county.
  9. After the removal of the Mill pond dam in Dexter, the increasing number of macroinvertebrates and brown trout enjoying a cleaner and faster moving creek, along with the increasing number of people discovering and enjoying the new trails, outdoor features and restaurants near the creek.
  10. You! In my work I interact with bright, passionate, and fun partners, staff, board, and volunteers. I am inspired by your commitment to our river and your love of everything Huron River.

River Roundup Results Reviewed: October 2017

Aquatic insect sampling on the Huron River and its creeks

Thanks to 145 volunteers who contributed approximately 580 volunteer hours, the October 2017 River Roundup was a great success!  As always, HRWC 100% guarantees good weather for its volunteer events or your money back.  As a result, this year we most certainly gave everyone their free registration money back, because the day was cold and very wet.  Our volunteers came backed soaked with October rain, but in the tradition of ecologists everywhere, all were happy to simply have been outside.

It was a very full house here in the HRWC conference rooms before the 21 teams split up and traveled to 42 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.  This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to understand how the water quality of the river and creeks may be changing. From the data collected at this semi-annual event, we are able to keep abreast of the health of our waterways throughout the watershed. You can see a summary below, or detailed results in the October 14 River Roundup Report.

It was too cold and wet to get picture for this event, so here is what we WISHED it looked like. credit: Aiman Shahpurwala (October 2016)

It was too cold and wet to get pictures for this event, so here is what we WISHED it looked like. credit: Aiman Shahpurwala (October 2016)

Current Watershed Health

Status
HRWC gives a rating to each site that we monitor (Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor). The graph below shows this breakdown for the 61 locations that HRWC considers representative for the watershed. The detailed River Roundup report gives the site condition for each location.

riverroundup-2017-graph1

 

Trends

Overall, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady, though there are particular areas getting worse or better.  Twenty-eight sites have had no statistically significant change over time, and 3 sites are too new to make this judgment.

Seventeen sites are declining in overall health including locations on Norton Creek, Traver Creek, Davis Creek, and Honey Creek (Washtenaw Co). Nine of the declining sites are in Livingston County, 4 are in Washtenaw, 2 are in Oakland, and 2 are in Wayne.

Thirteen sites are significantly improving.  Ten of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including locations on Mill Creek, Malletts Creek, Fleming Creek, and the Huron River in Ypsilanti. Two sites are improving in Livingston County (Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road and Portage Creek at Unadilla Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).

Highlight

There were a lot of highly diverse samples of insects collected this season.  The team at Horseshoe Creek: Merrill Road in Hamburg collected the most diverse sample seen there in many years. In the upper headwaters of the Huron, our volunteers once again found a very diverse insect population, including the rare Odontoceridae (strong case-maker caddis). In Malletts Creek, volunteers once again found a Philopotamid, a caddisfly, which is quite abundant in healthy streams but just recently popped up for the first time in this degraded-yet-improving urban creek.

The team at the Huron River: Zeeb Road collected the best sample ever taken at this site, which is saying something considering this was already the most biologically diverse location in the watershed. Twenty one insect families were found here, including 11 families from the mayfly-stonefly-caddisfly group that generally require clean water and high oxygen levels, and 5 sensitive families that are even more likely to be wiped out by the presence of pollution. (Note for people looking really close at the data report: This site is ranked #4 and and not #1 because of its large size. After controlling for size, there are three other sites that are considered more “healthy”.)

Huron River at Zeeb Road: Wide, deep, and ecologically healthy. credit: Max Bromley

Huron River at Zeeb Road: Wide, deep, and ecologically healthy. credit: Max Bromley

Lowlight

For some teams, sampling conditions were difficult.  Many volunteers faced pouring rain during most of their collection time, and a few creeks were running fast and deep. Others reported that it was simply hard to see the insects, because the ambient light was so low from the combination of  thick October rainclouds and dense trees. Despite this though, volunteers were able to find a high abundance of insects.  At only one site (Mill Creek at Manchester), was the sample so sparse that I had to reject it for failing to meet our abundance benchmark (>40% less the median abundance at this site).  The volunteers reported that the creek was flowing so fast that it was difficult to get the collector and net into the water.

Perhaps most disappointing result was the sample taken at Honey Creek: Wagner Road.  For the second time in recent years, no sensitive insect families were collected at this site. The location was known to be slightly declining over time, however, this poor sample turned the slight decline into a statistically significant one. The upstream site at Honey Creek:Jackson Road has also been significantly declining for many years now, with the last sensitive insect found in 2009.  As always, the loss of sensitive insects at Wagner Road could be a temporary blip in the data, but it is possible that the insects may not come back, similar to Jackson Road. HRWC has had a variety of projects on Honey Creek in recent years, and will continue to look into reasons why this is happening.

This graph shows the loss of sensitive insects at Honey Creek: Jackson Road

This graph shows the loss of sensitive insects at Honey Creek: Jackson Road (upstream)

This graph shows the loss of sensitive insects at Honey Creek: Wagner Road (downstream)

This graph shows the loss of sensitive insects at Honey Creek: Wagner Road (downstream)

What’s next?

Want to learn more about the data that HRWC collected this past year? On January 24th at 6 pm at our office on 1100 N. Main Street, in Ann Arbor, HRWC staff will present results and interpretation for all of the field projects conducted within the past year. Good indoor weather guaranteed!

Are you a hearty Michigander who wears shorts in January and speedos while you swim Lake Michigan in March? If so, or if you are maybe 1-2 steps lower than that, you should join the tough souls who participate in the Winter Stonefly Search on January 20.  It is like the River Roundup, only much snowier and usually colder, depending on what climate change is doing to us at the time. You can register for the event here.

riverroundup-volunteer-2017

Shred, Gather, or Clear: How to Get Rid of Autumn Leaves

leaf-on-grassWe’re just past Autumn’s peak color burst and it’s time to properly deal with all the leaves left on the ground. There are a few ways to dispose of your leaves:

  1. Mow right over them and leave the bits to feed your lawn (easiest method).
  2. If you have a lot of leaves, you can gather the shredded leaves and compost them and/or use them as mulch for your garden beds, shrubs, and trees.
  3. Rake whole leaves up and make “leaf mold.” You’ll have some free compost in the future but keep in mind that whole leaves take longer to breakdown so plan for your pile “to stew” for a couple of years.
  4. Find out how your city/township collects leaves and gather your leaves for pick up. Some areas vacuum leaves from piles but most only gather from composting bins and leaf bags.
keep stormdrains clear flyer

Stormdrain awareness flyer for our Honey Creek outreach program

When leaves and debris end up in the street, they can clog stormdrains and cause flooding. When large amounts of leaves wash down stormdrains and into creeks and the river, they reduce oxygen and degrade fish habitat.

As part of our outreach project in the Honey Creek area, a team of seven HRWC interns took to the streets this past August to get the word out about the importance of keeping stormdrains clear of trash and other kinds of pollution. Together they labeled 498 stormdrains in residential areas while distributing 1,258 door hangers at homes along the streets they labeled. To learn more about Honey Creek, go here.

In addition to clearing your yards of leaves or for those who don’t have yards and still want to help, check out our Adopt-a-Stormdrain program. Through this unique give-back program, you can set your own volunteer hours and meet neighbors.

Standing Strong for Clean Water

In the last 5 months HRWC has been regularly expressing our concern on changes to federal policy, legislation, and the budget.  I want to share with you a few of these letters and comments and assure you that HRWC is there to face new challenges coming while continuing our work to protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

hrwc20The Healing Our Waters Coalition (HOW) composed a letter defending the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) which, under the President’s budget, would be cut completely.  HRWC signed on to this letter that stated, “The potential wide-ranging budget cuts impact many agencies that are critical to the success of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as well as those that ensure people throughout the country have access to safe air and clean drinking water. Millions of people in the Great Lakes region and across the country—including many communities which have borne the brunt of racial, environmental and economic injustice—will pay a steep price if Congress does not reject the proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and agencies like U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others.”

HOW Coalition’s letter pushing back against the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts and in support of funding Great Lakes programs attracted a record 152 groups that signed on to the letter that sent a strong message to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to fund these important programs.

In response to President Trump’s regulatory reform efforts, HRWC signed on to 3 letters and participated in a national video.

One letter outlined HRWC’s objections to this proposed regulatory reform.  “We object to the false premise that public safeguards are holding back our nation.  In reality, environmental protections have saved lives, improved health, conserved resources and spurred innovation, all while allowing for economic growth and providing far more in benefits that they cost”.  In addition, HRWC signed on to a regional Great Lakes letter that outlined environmental and economic reasons for environmental protections in the Great Lakes region and highlights the importance of policies like the Clean Water Act in protecting vulnerable communities.

I was also interviewed for a video compiled by the Clean Water Network and the River Network that includes leading river protection groups talking about the importance of federal legislation on regional clean water efforts.  This video was compiled at National River Rally in May in Grand Rapids,  a conference for over 600 river and water champions.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency led the charge on another very important program facing budget cuts.  EPA’s highly successful WaterSense® program is a voluntary public-private partnership that has saved American consumers more than $33 billion (in 2015 dollars) on their water and energy bills over the past decade. WaterSense is a voluntary program, not a regulatory one, and it costs less than $2 million dollars a year to administer. It is universally supported by consumers, manufacturers and the public and private agencies charged with supplying water to American households and businesses. Since its inception in 2006, it has been immensely successful at achieving its goal of reducing water consumption. An estimated 1.5 trillion gallons have been saved using WaterSense-labeled products.

While of lesser significance to HRWC, we also signed on to letter opposing efforts to repeal or undermine protections for national parks and monuments spearheaded by the National Parks Conservation Association.

Finally, HRWC has been providing stories of our success with federal funding, legislation, and policies to national groups, policy makers, and legislators.  These on the ground examples are being used to illustrate the importance of federal grants and programs and to provide concrete water quality improvement stories.

HRWC is lending its voice and success stories to the national dialogue on federal environmental policies, budgets, and legislation.  We believe this is an example of how to Stand Strong for Clean Water.

News to Us

High flows on the Huron River in Dexter Township

High flows on the Huron River in Dexter Township

Read a sample of local to national news pieces that caught the eyes of HRWC staff over the past month.  Water quality, local flooding, recycling water and summer recreation are topics covered in this edition of News to Us.

Caution urged along swollen rivers, streams  Water levels are still high throughout the watershed.  Please use extra caution if on or near the rivers until water levels have subsided after recent record rainfalls.

The Huron River Water Trail  As we gear up for another warm weather recreation season here Michigan, HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs blogs on how to optimize your experience on the Huron River.

In US, Water Pollution Worries Highest Since 2001  Results from a recent Gallup poll show that water is on the minds of the American Public.  Take a look at this year’s numbers and how it compares to other years.

Beer Brewers Test A Taboo, Recycling Water After It Was Used In Homes  Companies are innovating water use and conservation, especially in areas where water scarcity concerns are growing.  Water can be safely reclaimed, for example, and a group of brewers in the West are helping to debunk taboos associated with this practice.

What’s at Stake in Trump’s Proposed E.P.A. Cuts  The Environmental Protection Agency has been the subject of much attention since the proposed White House budget was released last month. This article does a good job of digging into the weeds of what is likely to be affected by the proposed cuts. You may be surprised with breadth of responsibilities the EPA has and what we stand to lose should the cuts make it through budget negotiations. The loss of nonpoint source grant funding will directly impact the work of HRWC as will a number of other cuts. Nonpoint source grants provide funding for a significant number of our projects.

 

Make a Difference… Be a Scientist on Earth Day

Join a team of kids, teens, adults, and retirees during the River Roundup as you explore creeks and rivers.

Join a team of kids, teens, adults, and retirees during the River Roundup as you explore creeks and rivers.

Earth Day falls on April 22 this year, and not accidentally, so does HRWC’s spring River Roundup.  Perhaps the idea of Earth Day may strike you as a little disheartening this year, in our current political climate of science and environmental budget cuts, and widespread doubt in scientific data.  Are we making a difference at all?  Or is our country reverting back to an era of rivers catching on fire?  What is so disheartening to me personally is not a looming Federal budget that will remove funding for the Great Lakes and environmental regulation (though that is terrible, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not surprised by this), but to see so many people who agree with this course of action. Still, there is room for hope in our future, and that hopes lies in you—the many people who want clean water and clean land and who stand strong with HRWC to work for it.

Consider volunteering with us. Every participant makes an immediate difference at our local level.  HRWC volunteers collect scientific data in southeast Michigan, primarily in Oakland, Livingston, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties. For the upcoming River Roundup on Earth Day, volunteers will be looking for aquatic insects that tell us about the health of the Huron River and its tributaries, and ultimately about the health of all the land that drains into the Huron.  This information gives HRWC the knowledge to conduct effective river management projects and the authority to speak  intelligently on water quality issues with local, state, and federal government, landowners, and  other decision-makers.

And in the process of collecting scientific data, HRWC volunteers are learning and teaching others.  It is always so exciting to see the adult HRWC volunteers interacting and teaching children, teens, and college students about river systems, insects, and the environment.  And in as many cases, to see the kids teaching the adults! This is the type of education that will create the long term cultural change needed in our country.

Make a difference locally by acting now to help HRWC collect scientific information that informs our management decisions and local policies; change the future by teaching the younger generation in the process. The River Roundup is on Earth Day, April 22.  Learn more about the River Roundup and register at http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/roundup/

River Roundup Results Reviewed: October 2016

Credit: Ellen Rambo

Picking a huge log is always great for group bonding. Seriously! Credit: Ellen Rambo

Aquatic insect sampling on the Huron River and its creeks

Thanks to 154 volunteers who contributed approximately 600 volunteer hours, the October 2016 River Roundup was a great success!  As always, HRWC 100% guarantees good weather for its volunteer events or your money back.  We were once again able to fulfill that promise!

It was a very full house here in the HRWC conference rooms before the 18 teams split up and traveled to 36 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.  This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to understand how the water quality of the river and creeks may be changing. From the data collected at this semi-annual event, we are able to keep abreast of the health of our waterways throughout the watershed. You can see a summary below, or detailed results in the October 10 River Roundup Report.

Site Conditions as of October 10, 2016

Site Conditions as of October 10, 2016

 Current Watershed Health

Status

HRWC gives a rating to each site that we monitor (Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor). The graph above shows this breakdown for the 61 locations that HRWC considers representative for the watershed. The detailed River Roundup report gives the site condition for each location.

Trends

Overall, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady, though there are particular areas getting worse or better.  30 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 4 sites are too new to make this judgment.

Fifteen sites are declining, and these include locations on Norton Creek, Horseshoe Creek, and Honey Creek (Washtenaw Co).  Ten of the declining sites are in Livingston County, 3 are in Washtenaw, 1 is in Oakland, and 1 is in Wayne.

Twelve sites are significantly improving.  Eleven of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including locations on Mill Creek, Malletts Creek, Fleming Creek, and the Huron River. One site is improving in Livingston County (Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).

Highlight

Mark Schaller searches for bugs in the Huron River near Ypsilanti. Credit: Ellen Rambo

Mark Schaller searches for bugs in the Huron River near Ypsilanti. Credit: Ellen Rambo

There were a lot of highly diverse samples collected this season.  The team at Pettibone Creek: Commerce Road in Milford collected the most diverse sample ever taken at the site (sampling started here in 2001).

Two sites on South Ore Creek were diverse enough to pull these creeks out of a statistically significant decline and into the “declining but not significantly so” range.

The sample taken at Davis Creek off of Silver Road was the best sample taken in about 8 years.

Lowlight

For some teams, sampling conditions were difficult.  The Huron River was running fast and deep after the area received heavy rain just a few days before the event started. The sample taken at the Huron River at Zeeb Road was particularly bad and far outside the range of normal variation.  Based on the volunteer’s feedback and the difficulty of sampling the river, this sample was marked as an outlier and will not be included in the long-term record for the site.

What’s next?

Want to learn more about the data that HRWC collected this past year? On January 19th at 6 pm at our office on 1100 N. Main Street, HRWC staff will present results and interpretation for all of the field projects conducted within the past year. Good indoor weather guaranteed!

Do you consider yourself a Michigander, or aspire to be one? Then you should brave the cold and join the Winter Stonefly Search on January 21.  It is like the River Roundup, only much snowier and usually colder. Good weather guaranteed or your money back… but of course these events are always free!  You can register for the event here.

This giant water bug makes a run for freedom! Credit: Aiman Shahpurwala

This giant water bug makes a run for freedom!
Credit: Aiman Shahpurwala

Standing Strong for Clean Water

Dear HRWC Family,

Given the uncertainty of future environmental protection, I want to assure you that HRWC will stand strong to protect clean water. In this past presidential election, we saw a lack of conversationlaura-rubin-hrwc-executive-director or priority placed on environmental issues. We saw a denigration and disregard for environmental agencies and regulations. And we saw a discrediting of science. All things that deeply concern us at HRWC.

Our strength has been and will continue to be making progress on environmental policy, science, and citizen stewardship and engagement at the local level. We are the crucial link between environmental problems and effective solutions. We educate the public, businesses, and decision makers on the problems and the solutions. We secure funds for these solutions. We advocate for policy changes. We identify emerging threats and demand action. We get out in the rivers, lakes, and woods to monitor the conditions and measure progress.

Our programs start small and local. They are built around volunteer monitoring and science, local government leadership and citizen stewards, and political advocacy. They grow from collaboration with a slew of partners and funders who share our commitment to clean water. They are based on the belief that individuals can make a difference and small changes can lead to large impacts. From local ordinances that protect us from coal tar to fish habitat improvements, from pollution reduction partnerships to building a Huron River Water Trail, we believe that our future is one of clean and plentiful water for people and nature where we all are effective and courageous champions for the Huron River and its watershed.

In the next 6 months, we will learn more about the direction of our federal and state government’s environmental agenda. I want to assure you that HRWC will be there to face any new challenges coming and will continue our work to protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

With your support, we will stand strong and focus on our core values to generate sound science to ensure reliable supplies of clean water and a resilient natural system, to work collaboratively with all partners to engage an inclusive community of river guardians, and to passionately advocate for the health of the river and lands around it.

As I go in to the holiday season I am I am thankful that we — this community that calls the Huron its home waters — have the courage to protect the river for current and future generations. Your donation helps us stand strong. Thank you.

For the river,

Laura Rubin, Executive Director

Water Quality Monitoring Program Allows Active Involvement

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The 2016 Water Quality Monitoring Program season wrapped up at the end of September, and now I spend time compiling the data for analysis.  With the help of 60 volunteers between April and September, we gathered water samples for chemistry analysis at 37 sites throughout Washtenaw, Wayne, and Livingston Counties.  Flow measurements were also taken at several of those sites.  Monitoring sites are visited up to 12 times during the season, and it would be impossible to gather this much information, or visit as many sites, without the help of volunteers.  We are able to gather critical watershed data, as well as keep eyes on the Huron River and its tributaries for potential problems and risks such as erosion and pollution.  I am proud of this program, it allows citizens to become actively involved in protecting the Huron River watershed and the water we rely on for so much.  Thank you, volunteers, for helping us.

Mark your calendar for January 19, 2017 at 6:00pm and come to our Volunteer Appreciation and 2016 Field Season Results Presentation.

Find out more about the Water Quality Monitoring Program and sign up to volunteer in 2017.

HRWC Membership – Why Should You Join?

Greetings from the Membership Department and your friendly HRWC Membership Coordinator!

Did you know that membership support is critical to HRWC’s ongoing research and education efforts? Our membership has been growing each year, with most members contributing at the $35-$100 “invertebrate” levels (Mayfly, Crayfish, Dragonfly).  Just like in the watershed, the invertebrates are leading indicators of the health of HRWC and contributions at these levels provide over 60% of our annual membership income.

And what do we do with your money? The steady income from memberships allows HRWC to launch new programs in response to issues in the watershed – programs that do not initially have identified funding sources. When our efforts to ban the use of coal tar pavement sealants were just beginning, it was membership dollars that supported the initial research into the problem and how best to address it, which then led to our coal tar campaign to fund a broader effort to help local municipalities implement ordinance restrictions to reduce the use of this toxic material.

Some of our Green Infrastructure planning and Natural Rivers District work is also funded through membership support, which allows HRWC to send key staff members to local governments to assist in land use planning, ordinances and policies designed to protect the natural stretches of the Huron through several of our townships.

Membership also funds the little things, like when you call to let us know about an issue in the watershed. It might not seem like it takes much to respond to a call about clear-cutting property all the way to the riverbank, but once we get off the phone with you, we are making calls and sending emails to make sure the proper agencies are notified, and that they respond (so, yeah, members are funding our pestering abilities!). Often, one of our staff members will travel out to the property in question.

As a member, you can be proud of your connection to HRWC and your role in the important work we do every day in support of the Huron River and its watershed. Not a member? Consider getting in touch with your inner Mayfly and join our hundreds of other membership invertebrates! It’s easy to join online today.


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