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WI Citizens Learn What Makes Great Stream

Local residents measure the turbidity of Lowery Creek on the Cates Family Farm. (Margaret Krome/Michael Fields Agricultural Institute)
Local residents measure the turbidity of Lowery Creek on the Cates Family Farm. (Margaret Krome/Michael Fields Agricultural Institute)
October 4, 2018

SPRING GREEN, Wis. – Wisconsinites are getting their feet wet to find out more about their local streams.

The Water Action Volunteers stream monitoring program is training people across the Badger State to become citizen scientists by measuring local bodies of water.

About 40 miles west of Madison, local residents gather once a month at the Cates Family Farm to measure factors including the pH, speed and turbidity or cloudiness of nearby Lowery Creek.

Dick Cates, a retired University of Wisconsin professor who now helps on the farm, says the program helps locals analyze the health of the creek and, by extension, their own farming practices.

"We're all so proud of our Lowery Creek and we practice conservation activities along the stream,” Cates states. “And we really want to be assured that we're keeping the water quality high and we don't mind sharing that with the bigger world."

Water Action Volunteers, also known as WAV, is a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.

DNR is gathering the data WAV collects. The program on the Cates property began in May and trainees still are learning about the markers of a healthy stream.

Margaret Krome is policy program director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, which helped organize the training at the Cates Family Farm. She says one way to think about a healthy stream is to imagine what a trout would need to be happy in it.

"If you think of yourself as a trout, you will instinctively know that you want cold, clear, clean water,” she states. “And the things that a trout wants are the things we test for."

WAV trainees also are learning about the distant effects of stream health.

This summer, a fisherman from the Gulf of Mexico came to the area to talk about how excessive nutrient application on Wisconsin farms can create dead zones in the Gulf.

"It made us intensely aware of the impacts of nutrients especially that get into our streams and then the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico," relates Daniel Marquardt, a retired engineer and local farmer.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WI