Haw River Assembly (HRA) volunteers spread out over the watershed of the Haw River to monitor water quality in the streams and creeks that join the river recently — which this team has done to …
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Haw River Assembly (HRA) volunteers spread out over the watershed of the Haw River to monitor water quality in the streams and creeks that join the river recently — which this team has done to collect data for the past five years on each solstice and equinox, since spring 2016.
As a part of HRA’s River Watch Program, teams go out four times a year to collect macroinvertebrates (creatures without spines, large enough to see without a microscope) such as water insect larvae, crayfish, snails and other aquatic life. They identify and count what they find before they release them back into the water. Using a chart to identify pollution sensitive to pollution tolerant, they count how many species they collect in each category to determine the water’s health. During the this past winter solstice, the team determined the water to be of excellent quality.
Maja Kricker, one of the volunteers, said: “We had a crayfish! We had two dragonflies! We had craneflies! We had stoneflies and sowbugs and the most beautiful ephemeridae mayfly. And that stripey thing I saw that I couldn’t identify, I am now pretty sure is a riffle beetle larva, so we get three more points for 24!”
Not only does the team record the diversity of aquatic insects and other small aquatic life they find, they also record the pH, water temperature and other conditions of the river like algae, flow rate, and the presence of fish, mussels, beaver activity or new land disturbances or erosion. This data is sent to the Haw Riverkeeper at HRA, who uses it to note baseline conditions and changes over time. The Haw River Watch data is also sent to N.C. Division of Water Resources.
Besides these three monitors, water quality has been usually excellent, sometimes falling to good, according to the scale used to count aquatic life. This stretch of the river below Pittsboro is part of the Lower Haw River State Natural Area and is downstream from the massive Chatham Park development underway upstream.
Elaine Chiosso, the executive director of the Haw River Assembly, expressed concern that the mostly excellent water quality seen at this monitoring site will be degraded by sediment during construction, and by increased storm water.
“Collecting this data now gives us a way to monitor new impacts,” she explains.
This section of the Haw River has allowed for boasts of herons, osprey, bald eagles and many other animals, insects and plants that live in the riparian habitat. The area is also enjoyed by kayakers, canoeists, people walking their dogs and hikers.
The author is a part of the volunteer team which monitors the Haw River.
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