Is the lake I swim in clean or dirty? What lives in my favorite creek? The 4-H Alabama Water Watch Program (4-H AWW) is an opportunity for youth to answer questions like these and more. 4-H AWW helps students take care of Alabama’s water resources by providing science-based, hands-on experiences in the classroom and outdoors. The ultimate goal of 4-H AWW is to engage youth in citizen science focused on water quality. This involves teaching students:
- Water monitoring, or testing, and why it is important.
- How to conduct water quality testing on local waterbodies (creeks, rivers, lakes, bays, etc.).
- What the collected water data means.
By participating in 4-H AWW, students can explore potential careers in natural resource and environmental fields, and gain valuable skills and knowledge. 4-H AWW is part of the larger statewide volunteer monitoring program, Alabama Water Watch that was established in 1992, and is a national model for citizen involvement in watershed stewardship.
There are many ways for youth and educators to get involved!
Educators including teachers, informal educators, and community volunteers are trained to utilize the 4-H AWW Exploring Our Living Streams curriculum (EOLS) to educate and train youth in both classroom and club settings. Educators also learn to use the Citizen Science Data Simulation, an online tool that increases students’ abilities to analyze and interpret data.
The EOLS curriculum is correlated to the Alabama Course of Study for Science. AWW is a state-approved stackable credential for the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Cluster. Educators receive CEUs from Auburn University for their participation in workshops.
Youth participate in 4-H AWW in classroom and club activities led by trained adults. Contact your county Extension office for local opportunities.
There are also independent membership opportunities for youth to participate in 4-H AWW. Youth 16 or older can be certified in regular AWW Workshops and conduct monitoring independent of a club or classroom. Younger youth can also be trained to monitor during regular AWW Workshops if they have a parent or guardian who accompanies them to the workshop, completes the certification requirements, and provides guidance to youth during monitoring and data submission.
How We Do It
- Water Chemistry Monitoring: Test physical and chemical characteristics of water to determine pollution sources and long-term trends in water quality. With a customized kit, monitors can test pH, hardness, alkalinity, air and water temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and salinity (coastal monitors only). Students learn to submit data to the AWW database. All submitted AWW data is available on the AWW Water Data site for graphing and mapping.
- Stream Bioassessment: Assess stream health using aquatic bugs (macroinvertebrates) as water pollution indicators. Training combines the use of field collections and an environmental game that simulates a stream bioassessment.
- Bacteriological Monitoring: Detect levels of E.coli and other coliform bacteria in water as indicators of fecal contamination by using the Coliscan Easygel Method. Determine if water is meeting standards for drinking, swimming and aquatic life.
AWW uses very specific equipment for Water Chemistry and Bacteriological Monitoring. Requirements for the nets and other equipment used for Stream Biomonitoring is not as specific. You can learn more about monitoring equipment, including prices, on the materials section of alabamawaterwatch.org.
There are materials available for check-out by certified educators and volunteers in some county Extension offices. Check with the program coordinator for more information.