Alabama Water Watch (AWW) is the statewide volunteer water monitoring program that is supported by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and is based at Auburn University. For nearly 30 years, AWW has been training citizens to collect credible water data that is used to protect and restore water health.
Recently, AWW forged a new partnership with the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to conduct a project that promotes water quality monitoring by AWW volunteers in the national forests in Alabama. The project is funded by the USDA CitSci Fund whose purpose is to support innovative projects that address science and resource management information needs while connecting people to the land and one another.
The goal of the project is to establish a network of AWW citizen scientists who can assist with the collection of water data in NFAL priority watersheds that were identified through the USDA Forest Service’s Watershed Condition Framework. Water data collected by the citizen scientists will be used to evaluate whether current management practices are resulting in clean water for the forests, its ecosystems, and the public. More specifically, the data will help determine the condition of the streams within the priority watersheds, establish baseline data for the watersheds, and develop a Watershed Restoration Action Plan (WRAP).
In January and February 2020, USFS and AWW Personnel facilitated AWW Water Monitoring workshops in Bankhead, Tuskegee, and Conecuh National Forests. Each workshop included certifications in Water Chemistry and Bacteriological Monitoring. Day one of each workshop was conducted in the classroom. On the second day, participants went to the national forests to conduct field work.
Forty seven adults were certified as AWW water chemistry and bacteriological monitors for the project. Also, a group of approximately 30 students from Winston and Walker counties were certified as 4-H AWW monitors. These students will assist with monitoring in the Bankhead National Forest under the leadership of their teachers and local Extension staff.
At the end of each workshop, interested volunteers were matched to monitoring sites in national forests in their areas. Participating volunteers can check out kits that include all materials needed to monitor their sites in the national forests. Volunteers agreed to conduct monthly testing at 22 sites that were pre-selected by USFS and are within priority watersheds. They submit their data to the AWW database.
In the fall of 2020, AWW and USFS will return to each of the participating National Forests to recertify volunteer monitors and present project findings. AWW is excited about the project outcomes to date, and look forward to the impact it will have in the future.
If you are interested in following the progress of this project or would like to get involved with AWW, contact the Alabama Water Watch office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-844-4785. For more information on Alabama Water Watch visit www.alabamawaterwatch.org.