Monitoring water quality from New York to Truckee |

Monitoring water quality from New York to Truckee

Recently I read an article about cities that are enlisting the aid of fish to keep drinking water safe. New York and San Francisco are apparently using bluegill to detect changes in water quality.The system monitors bluegill breathing and coughing as a way of telling if the water is safe. In New York a spokesman for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection said that the fish have proven adept at detecting problems. He said the fish noticed a diesel spill two hours earlier than any of the agencys other early-detection devices.The fish are very sensitive to changes in water quality. The fish are monitored for their level of agitation and other changes in their behavior. Using fish as early-detection devices is similar to the miners using canaries to monitor air quality in mines in the old days.While fish are great short-term monitors of water quality, there are other great water quality monitoring efforts in our own region. The Truckee River Aquatic Monitors (TRAM) tracks long-term water quality through the study of macro-invertebrates.TRAM is a volunteer-based program that offers the Truckee community reliable scientific data on local streams. They collect, identify and analyze benthic macro-invertebrates bugs! The number of bugs and variety of species indicate the health of a given stream.TRAM conducts field sampling events each summer and twice-monthly lab sessions each winter. The summer sampling events usually begin around noon and last between three to five hours. During each session volunteers will learn field collection techniques for aquatic macro-invertebrates and habitat assessment skills.All levels of volunteers are welcome. Some have experience and others have none. It does not matter because TRAM will provide the training necessary to participate.Flyfishermen and women can gain an immense amount of knowledge from volunteering for this program. You can learn so much about aquatic insects! After all, this is the very basis for catching trout. Knowing what food forms are available for our local fish gives the fly angler a leg up on the learning curve. Beginners and experienced anglers can benefit from the experience.Non-anglers will find the experience incredibly enlightening. You will discover a whole new world beneath the waters of your favorite stream that you may have been overlooking.Event notices are posted on the Calendar section of the Truckee River Watershed Council Web site, Check it out.They are always looking for volunteers. If you are interested in attending a session, contact Program Manager Beth Christman at 550-8760 or e-mail her at for more detailed information on when and where to meet.Volunteers who assist with this program are helping assess and maintain the health of our local waters. They are a valuable group and should be commended for their community service.Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.

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