Volunteers needed to monitor water quality

The University of Delaware Sea Grant Program is initiating a new program to monitor the water quality in Delaware’s Broadkill River watershed, which includes the town of Milton and parts of Lewes, Georgetown and Ellendale, as well as Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge. Modeled after the Inland Bays Citizens Monitoring Program, the program will recruit citizen volunteers to collect and analyze water samples at various sites on the Broadkill River and its tributaries. The entire sampling process takes about 30 minutes at each site. (The Inland Bays Citizens Monitoring Program is still seeking volunteers for the Vines Creek, Pepper Creek and Indian River Bay areas.)

The volunteer efforts will assist the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in developing pollution-control strategies fro the watershed and evaluate progress through long-term water-quality monitoring.

A workshop will be held Friday, May 20, from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the College of Marine Studies in Lewes to give volunteers an overview of the program and to teach them how to collect and analyze water samples for dissolved oxygen, salinity and temperature. Water-quality monitoring will begin in early June. Additional training programs will be offered later this summer.

The Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service established the Inland Bays Citizen Monitoring Program in 1991 in response to a growing need for verifiable water-quality data for Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman bays as human activity began to affect the water quality of these shallow waterways. Area volunteers were recruited and trained to collect and analyze water samples at designated sites throughout the Inland Bays. Today, there are approximately 30 volunteers who participate in this program.

The data have been used to determine and evaluate seasonal and other temporal trends in the water quality of these inland waterways. The data also support public policy decisions regarding the management of the Inland Bays and research efforts at the College of Marine Studies.

“Residents and visitors have become increasingly aware of how pollution affects habitat and aquatic life in the Inland Bays,” says Joe Farrell, resource management specialist with the Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service and manager of the Inland Bays Citizen Monitoring Program. “The program provides a way for the public to participate and help protect and manage this valuable resource.”

According to Farrell, government agencies have found that volunteers can provide high-quality data to complement their own monitoring efforts throughout the United States. “Volunteer monitoring programs have become an integral part of the way in which resource managers assess the health of watersheds and estuaries,” he noted.

The Broadkill Volunteer Monitoring Program is being supported by the Delaware Estuary Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Control. Please contact Joe Farrell, program manager, at (302) 645-4250 or jfarrell@udel.edu or Ed Whereat, program coordinator, at (302) 645-4252 or whereat@udel.edu for more information and to reserve a space in the workshop.