Posts Tagged ‘Water Quality’
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.
Current Watershed Health
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 conversation 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
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.
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.
Breaking news here at HRWC headquarters: we have been awarded a grant to implement our Honey Creek Watershed Management Plan! In 2012 -2013 we researched within the Honey Creek watershed to identify problems. Primarily, we scoured the watershed looking at bacteria levels and fingerprinting their sources. Honey Creek’s poor water quality is due to high bacteria levels, which can threaten human health.
Our research led us to some recommendations on how to protect and restore the area in ways that address the most critical issues. We are pleased to report that the Department of Environmental Quality has provided funding for this work within the Honey Creek watershed. Our Honey Creek project starts this autumn and will end in autumn 2019.
With this grant, we will:
- Hire canine teams (dogs!) to sniff out sources of human sewage waste in 2 key areas of the watershed. Once the dogs help us identify specific areas with septic issues, we will work with Washtenaw County and property owners to help them address problems. We will also do homeowner outreach on ways to maintain septic systems.
- Scoop that poop! We will raise awareness of the importance of removing pet waste from yards and parks, and install pet waste pick-up stations. Pet waste is one of the predominant sources of bacteria in Honey Creek.
- Mark 1,000 storm drains and hand out door-to-door flyers to raise awareness of their direct connection to Honey Creek and what people can do to capture and reduce runoff pollution.
- Identify farmers in the Middle Huron watershed for a Farmer Advisory Council (FAC). The FAC will advise HRWC and project partners on future plans to address bacteria and nutrient reduction from agriculture including innovative approaches such as “pay for performance” subsidies for nutrient and bacteria reduction practices.
For questions about our new project, contact Ric here.
This project has been funded wholly or in part through Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Program by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Explore tubing on the river between Dexter and Ann Arbor
If you’ve never tubed on the river you should try it. At first I was intimidated by the young, more rowdy crowds of tubers but found quickly that tubing can be a quiet, cooling, and beautiful way to experience the river. The tubes are relatively inexpensive. Grab a pump that can run off your power outlet in your car. Pick a hot day and leave a bike or car at the Washtenaw County Stokes-Burns Park on Zeeb Road and then head to Dexter-Huron Metropark.
The rest is easy. Relax into your tube (wear a bathing suit or shorts that can get wet) and the steady current will take you gently down the river. The mile-long trip takes about an hour and a half and takes you through a beautiful stretch of the river where you catch glimpses of fish, very large and colorful dragonflies, indian paintbrush plants, herons, osprey, and other plants and animals I can’t name. On a hot day, its just about perfect! We do try to avoid the weekend river rush-hour and usually have a very relaxing experience.
If you are looking for a more lively adventure with lots of people and action, check out Tube the River from the City of Ann Arbor for info on trips through the Argo Cascades.
Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron with Motor City Canoe Rental, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket in Milford or Dexter, learn the history of the Huron or take a fly fishing lesson in Ypsilanti! Sponsored by TOYOTA.
My work in the environmental field makes me familiar with the many things we can do at home to protect the environment. But it takes money and time to act on these tips. This past year we were finally able to work on a few “greening” home improvements, shared here for inspiration . . .
Last year we reached out to the Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office to help develop a plan to capture and infiltrate more of the runoff from our roof. Years ago we installed a rain barrel but it is limited to 50 gallons per rain, with use in between rains. I live in Ann Arbor on a pretty small parcel and there is not much room for rain storage and infiltration…or a garden. But we were able to identify 2 different rain garden locations—one a swale along one side of the house and another in the front of the house.
After choosing plants and a design we installed the rain garden last spring—digging, mulching, and placing rocks and native plants strategically for rain water capture and aesthetics.
At first it didn’t look like much but as the summer and fall wore on the plants blossomed and grew. We enjoyed running outside when it was raining to see the water gushing out of the gutter/downspout and in to the rain garden where it soaked in to the ground. We found out that we have pretty sandy soils, unusual for this area, so the water soaked in quickly. If anything, we can divert more runoff to this garden it was so “thirsty”. I also learned, through trial and error, what was a weed and what wasn’t. Staying on top of the weeding is the biggest challenge now that the rain garden is in.
Last summer we also decided to install solar panels. Since we had last looked in to solar panels the cost has come down substantially. There are also substantial tax incentives in place this year that help with the price of the panels. We got quotes, talked with colleagues and friends who had installed panels and chose an installer, Homeland. It took over 4 months until the system was up and running but in early November we were generating electricity! We’re still getting familiar with how it all works but we have a nice looking box in the basement that hums when we are generating energy and a website to track our power generation. We’re looking forward to the summer when the sun really shines to see how much energy we can generate and reduce our carbon.
If you are considering home improvements, or even smaller actions that help protect the environment, HRWC promotes many of them at our Take Action pages. Our booth at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, will feature two sustainable landscaping experts providing free information on rain gardens and native plants: Susan Bryan leader of Washtenaw County’s Rain Garden Program (Saturday) and Drew Laithin of Creating Sustainable Landscapes (Friday/Sunday).
Susan also wrote the cover story for the Spring 2016 Huron River Report, sharing success installing private rain gardens in our Swift Run Project and offering some great tips for those considering DIY rain gardens. Take a look, its a good read and will inspire you to start a rain garden movement in your neighborhood.
January 23rd was a beautiful day for the annual Stonefly event. The weather hovered around 30 degrees and the sun shone nicely throughout the volunteers’ time outside. They were searching for stoneflies, an insect that only lives in the healthiest creeks and rivers. The absence and presence of stoneflies, and the trends in their population that we see after visiting a location over and over again, give us clues as to how the water is changing over time.
Unfortunately for the purposes of data analysis and clear-cut answers, stoneflies are affected by more than water quality, however. Strange weather can also play havok on their ecosystems, causing populations to drop off. Our volunteers came back with very low amounts of stoneflies this year, and while we can’t be certain, it is possible that our variable Michigan weather is to blame. You may recall that December was unseasonably warm in 2015, and wonder how that might affect the insects. However, in this case, it wasn’t a warm December that hurt the stoneflies, but instead February 2015, a month that was extremely cold. In fact, it was one of the coldest February’s on record. When streams and rivers are covered by thick ice, oxygen levels decline, which is bad for all aquatic life but particularly bad for stoneflies, who have high oxygen requirements. Also, February and early March are when winter stonefly adults are emerging, mating, and depositing eggs; all activities hampered by extreme cold and ice cover. In summary, the cold 2015 winter had direct consequences for the stoneflies in 2016.
Volunteers did not find stoneflies at many places this year, but five locations in particular that did not have stoneflies were noteworthy as all of them have a long (10+ years) history of always holding stoneflies. In addition, all of these locations have great insect populations at our other events and there are no indications of water quality issues, further strengthening the argument that this year was a weather-related population decline. These five locations were three places on the main branch of the Huron (White Lake, Zeeb, and Bell Roads), Arms Creek at Walsh Road, and Boyden Creek at Delhi Road. Many other locations had reduced numbers or family counts.
Those interested in all results can see them here: PDF report.
Prior to the event, I laid out several examples of things that we would watch for this year:
Davis Creek at Pontiac Trail: Stoneflies have been dropping off here for the past decade. Volunteers did come back with stoneflies this year, though not the winter stoneflies but rather a family that is more widely available. Still, this is good news.
Honey Creek at Wagner Road: Stoneflies were missing here in 2014 for the first time, and unfortunately volunteers did not find them this year either.
Woods Creek at Lower Huron Metropark: Just like Honey Creek at Wagner Road, stoneflies were not found here for the second year in a row.
Insect populations are resilient and can bounce back with good water quality and suitable weather conditions. While this year was disappointing, the mild winter we are experiencing right now may result in a bumper crop in 2017. Come next January, HRWC and its volunteers will be ready to check it out!
It is January, which means that one of HRWC’s favorite events, the Stonefly Search, is right around the corner.
Stoneflies are interesting because they are the most pollution intolerant group of aquatic insects that we have in Michigan. They can only thrive in the cleanest water with high levels of dissolved oxygen. When they are found at a location it is a confirmation of high water quality, and when they disappear from a stream it is a warning sign that water quality has degraded.
It might seem strange to many that we hunt for stoneflies in the winter. This is because two of the stonefly families, the Capniidae and the Taeniopterygidae, change from aquatic nymphs to terrestrial adults in the late winter and early spring. This means that we can’t find them during the normal April River Roundup, and so we have to look for them earlier in the year!
The Stonefly Search always produces interesting results. Let’s take a look at some of the findings in recent years.
Reported in 2013: Four sites had the best stonefly samples that had ever been seen at those locations: Chilson Creek at Chilson Road, Fleming Creek at Galpin Road, the Huron River at Flat Rock, and Woodruff Creek at Buno Road. At each of these sites, the stoneflies normally found at the location were there, but also new stonefly families were found that had never been seen there before! A greater diversity of stoneflies indicates greater stream health. These are promising results and hopefully it will continue into longer term trends.
Reported in 2011: Since 2007 and up through last year, our volunteers have found 4 families of stoneflies in Mann Creek. This includes 2 stonefly families that can be found in creeks year round (Perlidae & Perlodidae), and the 2 stonefly families that are only found in the winter (Capniidae & Taeniopterygidae). Even in the Huron’s healthiest streams, it is unusual to find more than 2 families of stoneflies during the Stonefly Search. So, Mann Creek is special indeed. Mann Creek flows through a residential neighborhood- but one really interesting thing about Mann Creek is that there is a very wide natural riparian zone surrounding the creek. This riparian area provides habitat and food for stoneflies as branches and leaves fall into the creek. To see Mann Creek and its impressive riparian zone, click here.
Reported in 2015: Davis Creek at Pontiac Trail (near South Lyon) is a location where the stonefly population has dropped over time. This change is concerning because it happened slowly over the last ten years and our spring and fall samples show a very similar pattern. In the early 2000s we regularly found one or two stonefly families at the creek, but they started to drop off and now have not been found since 2009.
Reported in 2015: The team searching for stoneflies in Honey Creek at Wagner Road (Ann Arbor) were unable to find stoneflies. This site has been sampled 14 times since 1995, and this is the first time that stoneflies could not be found. This is a site with lots of turbulent highly oxygenated water and should be a great place for stoneflies. Taken in isolation, the absence of the stoneflies at Wagner Road would not be concerning given that this is a single sample. However, two upstream Honey Creek Adopt-a-Stream sites used to have stoneflies but haven’t in years. Stoneflies haven’t been seen in Honey Creek at Jackson Road since 2008; they haven’t been at Honey Creek at Pratt Road since 2003. All of the pieces combined indicates that the overall quality of Honey Creek is degrading over the last decade.
Reported in 2013: The team searching for stoneflies in Woods Creek in Belleville came back disappointed. Wood’s Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark has been sampled 12 times since 1997, and this is the first time that stoneflies could not be found. The problem likely comes from the thick ice and difficult conditions rather than pollution or disturbed stream habitat, but we will keep an eye on Wood’s Creek next year.
What will we find in 2016?
Will Mann Creek continue to reign as the king of Huron River stoneflies? Will we find stoneflies where they have never been before?
Will we find stoneflies this year at Davis, Honey, and Woods Creek, or has the water quality there continued to decline?
We will see you on January 23 and we will answer these questions together!
A Celebration of a Very Cold Event
by Dr.David Wilson
We don our coats and boots, go forth to break the ice
In frigid, frosty weather that no one could say is nice
We flounder through the streams in search of a great prize
Taeniopterids and Capniids, precious winter stoneflies
Winter stones are quite the thing
Though one surely might be wondering
How these tiny creatures could ever be so bold
As to live and thrive in this bitter winter cold
Paul tells us that in winter these critters really thrive
Cold water holds the oxygen to keep them all alive
And winter is helpful in another major way
The cold keeps fierce predators so very far away
Quite sensitive to any water pollution,
Winter stones provide a quick solution
If we find ‘em we can be sure
That the stream is sweet and pure
The critters are small and rather dark
In this frigid weather they have a lark
Scamper about in the ice and snow
There’s no other place for them to go
To ID them here’s what you do
Look for wingpads four and cerci two
Along the flanks no gills are found
And on each leg two claws astound
The ice is thick, the water chills,
With cold I’m fed up to the gills
But none could say that we are quitters
We’ll search ‘til we find those little critters
Believe me, I know whereof I speak
You’ll find out fast if your waders leak
One hears screams of pain from the bravest jocks
When that icy water hits their socks
Collectors and runners can stay in motion
Stay warmer thus, I have a notion
But picking requires that one stand still
Can be quite bleak, cause many a chill
Don’t go on ice unless waders you wear
If you’re not wearing waders your weight it won’t bear
If you should venture this dumb thing to do
I guarantee you’ll surely break through
Let me warn you right now; listen up and take heed
Bring twice the wraps you think that you’ll need
That usually turns out to be about right
So that you are not left in a piteous plight
A jug of warm water is always quite pleasing
Helps to keep that D-net from freezing
And stout rubber gloves keep collectors’ hands dry
Help a great deal when frostbite is nigh
On these trips a truly most gracious amenity
May help the participants keep some of their sanity
A big jug of cocoa sure hits the spot
Beloved by all if it’s nice and hot.
Stonefly Search is coming January 23! Registration and info here.
About the author:
Dave Wilson is a HRWC volunteer and trained collector who has attended 9 Stonefly Searches and countless other HRWC events.