One of the most successful strategies for protecting surface water quality has been the adoption of streams and watersheds by interested volunteer groups. In November of 2009 Cajuns for Bayou Teche held a fundraiser and a volunteer cleanup day that was successful in pulling many boatloads of trash out of the bayou. Volunteers from nonprofit organizations and businesses pitched in to do the dirty work and everyone felt like it was a day well spent. The event also served as the starting point for a project in which Cajuns for Bayou Teche, Acadiana RC&D, and Sierra Club Delta Chapter would work together to start a volunteer based water quality monitoring program on the Bayou called Water Sentinals.
Funding support from the three organizations was combined to purchase sampling kits for basic surface water quality monitoring. Local and guest instructors from the Sierra Club conducted two water quality monitoring workshops to train volunteers to perform water sampling and analysis, and reporting of results. Five volunteer sampling teams were formed and they have successfully monitored water quality at five different locations along the Bayou.
The sampling teams run tests at the five locations on the same date to establish a continuous profile of water quality. The tests are for temperature, pH, conductivity, Dissolved Oxygen and Nitrates. Additional field observations made at the time of each sampling further complete the picture. We discuss in the workshops the meaning of each of these parameters and what they show us over time. Three coordinated sampling dates in May, August and November of 2010 have provided a good initial set of data representing Bayou Tech water quality. We plan to continue monitoring four times per year for as many sampling locations as possible. In time we hope to add a test for E. coli that will provide information on bacteriological contamination in the water, and add observations of streambed small organisms. Our next training workshop for volunteers will be on May 12, 6:00 to 8:30 pm in New Iberia at the Parks and Recreation Oak Room, which is located at 300 Parkview Drive.
Bayou Teche Water Sentinals is looking for interested persons to serve as volunteers to monitor additional sampling locations along the Bayou. We work on a small budget of donated funds to buy sampling and safety equipment so we are always looking for funding help to keep the program going. Water Sentinals program coordinator time is volunteered by Woody Martin, the writer of this article. Persons interested in participating as a volunteer or helping with funding support can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 337-298-8380. Big thanks go to Blake Couvillion of Cajuns for Bayou Teche and to Kristen Kordecki of Acadiana RC&D for their participation and support of the program.