Environmental advocates say if participation in the 2018 annual WaterShed Watch is any indication, the level of citizen interest in Boise River water quality is higher than ever: More than 250 volunteers joined scientists and trainers Sept. 30 for the tenth annual event.
Water quality tests were performed at 14 different points along the Boise River from Barber Park to Parma. Teams checked for aquatic native and non-native species, monitored temperature and turbidity and tested dissolved oxygen, E. coli, phosphorous and pH levels. Although final results won't be available for a month, early indicators suggest good news.
"WaterShed Watch participation doubled in size from the last few years we held the event," said Cindy Busche, environmental education coordinator at the Boise Watershed Environmental Education Center. "People are interested in the water quality of our watershed, particularly due to events this past year such as flooding ... and water quality issues in Esther Simplot Park."
Busche said stormwater runoff is one of the biggest factors in water quality, which means everyone has a stake in what ends up in the river, and limiting pollutants is as critical as ever in maintaining a healthy river, because "all of our stormwater drains directly to the Boise River with no treatment." She believes citizen engagement is the best way to maintain water quality and the health of river ecosystems.
"We're all connected to the river, no matter where you live in the valley. People are reliant on it for drinking water, recreation, agriculture and other uses we don't think about as often, like hydroelectric power, and our fish and wildlife industry," she said.
Not only did volunteer participation spike for the 2018 WaterShed Watch, but there was also a significant increase in youth involvement.
"We had a lot of children participate, and I could see an enthusiasm that I hope will continue through their lives," said Busche.