Fish & Water
In January 2020, Alabama Water Watch (AWW), in partnership with the USDA Forest Service (USFS), officially launched a new water quality monitoring project in the national forests in Alabama, funded by the USFS Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program (CitSci Fund). Established in 2017, the CitSci Fund supports innovative projects that address science and resource management information needs while connecting people to the land and one another.
The goal of the AWW program is to encourage citizens to discover the national forests in Alabama by testing their waters. Citizen volunteers are trained to collect water chemistry and bacteriological monitoring data on select stream locations within the national forests. Ultimately, the USFS will use this water data to make watershed management decisions in the forests.
AWW held three, two-day water quality monitoring workshops between January and February 2020 for the Tuskegee, Bankhead, and Conecuh national forests, training a total of 51 individuals. These workshops covered information related to the water environment, forests and watershed health, pollution, and water quality standards. During day two of each workshop, participants conducted monitoring practices on the respective national forest.
In October 2020, AWW hosted a virtual data interpretation for the data collected by national forest monitors since the conclusion of the three winter workshops. During the project’s first seven months, volunteer citizens have collected 69 water chemistry and 72 bacteriological records for a total of 141 data records. As of September 30, 2020, citizen time for this project totaled 1,049 volunteer hours, valued at $28,533.
“I want to share with anyone who’s interested in doing this kind of work that it really is its own reward to be out there. It’s nice to feel like you’re doing something that contributes to a greater cause. I’ve not yet monitored for a year, but I do really look forward to developing a deeper relationship with these areas and these spots that I’ve been assigned, and observing the cycles and changes. I’m grateful to be part of this organization that facilitates this good work.” – Tuskegee National Forest monitor volunteer
AWW plans to apply for additional funding from the CitSci Fund to pursue an expansion of this project in 2021 to the Talladega National Forest.* It is hoped that this will be one of many projects to come that incorporate Alabama public lands with AWW’s water monitoring program.
For those interested in following the progress of this project or getting 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. Like and follow Alabama Water Watch on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
*As of the completion of this article, the 2021 CitSci RFP has yet to be released
Alabama Water Watch (AWW) is a statewide citizen volunteer water quality monitoring program. AWW is part of the Auburn University Water Resources Center and is supported by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, and external funding.