One Saturday of every month, volunteers head out to their local waterways to collect water samples in sterile polypropylene water bottles.
The Butler County Stream Team coordinates these volunteers, who wish to participate in monitoring the water quality throughout Butler County. The Stream Team “collects, analyzes, and reports water quality data from many waterways.”
The Butler County Stream Team is a partnership of 3 organizations: the Butler County Storm Water District, the Butler County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Miami University’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IES).
The partnership’s goals are to help residents become more aware of their local water quality issues and track trends while looking for potential problems.
“It gives the public a sense of ownership in their water quality,” said Thomas Crist, the current Director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
This mutually beneficial partnership is one of the longest standing citizen science programs in the state of Ohio. Miami’s IES joined the team in 2005 under the department’s previous director Mark Boardman.
The Stream Team has a long history compared to most citizen science programs. According to Crist, most volunteer water quality groups last for 3 to 5 years—Miami has been involved for the last 10 years.
The samples are analyzed with Miami University facilities. Volunteers measure the samples for data on items like nitrates, phosphorous levels, bacteria and conductivity. These factors are used because they are “indicative of field runoff and of human fecal matter,” Crist said.
“We try to get a good coverage and distribution, but we have a limited number of volunteers and resources,” Crist said.
The Stream Team has helped Butler County endorse environmental education and involve its citizens by inviting them to participate in sampling days. The Stream Team is open for any volunteer to join in their work.
“Most of the volunteers that we have are long term volunteers and are committed to the project,” Crist said. “It’s a fairly dedicated group.”