A Bug-Eye View of Water Quality

TLGV’s Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program is recruiting new and returning volunteers to help us learn about water quality in small streams.  Using a process known as “Riffle Bioassessments for Volunteers,” the program trains ordinary people to become citizen scientists.

“This program uses underwater bugs to identify high quality stream habitat.  The bugs are much easier to catch than fish,” said Jean Pillo, TLGV’s water quality monitoring program coordinator.  “Certain types of may flies, stone flies and caddis flies need colder water with a high dissolved oxygen level and minimal turbidity. These bugs can’t live in polluted streams.  Too often, stormwater runoff goes into these streams and degrades that habitat.”

The program is specific to Connecticut, and the data (sample bugs collected by volunteers) are sent to the CT DEEP for positive identification.  If the results show 4 or more of the “most wanted” species from a select list, DEEP can report that stream as meeting water quality goals in its biannual report to the US Congress.

Required annual training for both new and returning volunteers will take place on Friday, September 9 at the USDA Service Center in Norwich, 238 West Town Street, from 9 am – noon, or Saturday, September 10 at the Ashford Town Hall, 5 Town Hall Drive, also from 9 am– noon.  The 3-hour training will include an indoor classroom introduction to the program, immediately followed by a field trip to a nearby stream to practice collecting and identifying the bugs using simplified field cards to guide you.  Please come prepared to wade in a stream that is below knee level.

Pre-registration for either training program is required.  Please call Jean Pillo at 860-928-4948 or send an email to Jean.Pillo@Comcast.net.  After the training, volunteers will be assigned streams to assess at their convenience between September and November 30.  All equipment and field cards will be provided.

“If you have said to yourself that somebody should do something to protect the water quality in your neighborhood, this is your chance to be somebody,” said Ms. Pillo.  “And it’s fun, too!”