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The White Clay Watershed Associationís Streamwatch program was started in 1989 by two long-time members of the WCWA, Vivian and Warren Davies of Landenberg, who had been interested in the water- quality of the White Clay Creek for some time. "Vivian tested spring and well-water quality" while both were getting acquainted with people at Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC), according to Warren. Vivian made a motion at a 1989 Watershed Association board meeting to start a stream watch program. This led to a unique blending of dedicated volunteers assisted by the entomologists and scientists at SWRC. Together, they pioneered a water-monitoring alliance supported by volunteers that remains unmatched in the United States because of its emphasis on the biology of the stream and not just chemistry.
The methodology of the program was developed by scientists at Stroud Water Research Center. The Stream Watch program is designed to scientifically monitor the water quality of the White Clay Creek. The stream is monitored once a year at specific predetermined sites along its travels through farmlands, housing developments, sewage treatment sites, and preserve lands. Sites were selected in order to determine the impact that various land uses may have upon the watershed. By design, the program emphasizes the biology and not just the chemistry of the stream. This distinguishes this program from most other stream watch programs in the country.
Twelve sites are located on the three branches (east, west and middle) in Pennsylvania, and three Delaware sites were added in 1995. Click here for map of collection site locations. The sites have been marked with posts so they can be found from year to year. Each site is located in a riffle, or shallow area where water moves swiftly over fist-sized rocks. Four locations in each riffle are sampled each year, for a total of 60 samples.
Collection day is usually a Saturday at the end of March or beginning of April before fishing season stirs up the stream. On that day, at the time of sampling, water and air temperature, water depth and a visual determination of sediment in the water are documented. At each site, the four samples are collected with a surber, a net made of fine mesh, with a one-foot square frame that is forced down over the rocky bottom. The aquatic life is dislodged from the rocks inside the square-foot frame, and flow into the end of the net. Clinging insects are removed from the rocks with forceps, the surface area of the rocks are measured, and then the rocks are returned to the stream. The collected samples are placed in jars for transport back to the lab.
After returning to the lab the real work, which could take the rest of the year, begins. Each sample is split into two equal portions. One half is sorted, counted and placed in vials for permanent reference - the other half is kept as a backup. For the last four years, splitting the sample has become a special skill for Marna Goddard. Quality control is maintained when the same person does all the splitting. The work of sorting, identification and counting of the aquatic macro invertebrates is done by groups of volunteers working with microscopes under the tutelage of Beaty Broughton over the next six to ten months. The insect larvae and other aquatic life are separated from the stream debris, sorted to family, counted, recorded and fed into a database for analysis.
The biodiversity and total numbers are indicators of the health of the stream. Some species are known to be more sensitive to environmental insult than others and it is this biodiversity that we want to maintain. The final results will indicate the trends in water quality going back to 1991, when the first samples were taken. Click here to review 1995 results
Banjo - the mascot of the WCWA Stream Watch Program
Banjo, Suzanne Snajdr's five year old Golden Retriever, is a regular attendee at the Tuesday evening bug counting sessions and has become the mascot for the program. His enthusiastic tail has yet to upset a single sample dish.
Banjo - Investigating Water Quality Issues for the WCWA
Stream Watchers meet at Stroud Water Research Center, 512 Spencer Road in Avondale, on Tuesday afternoons and evenings. If you are interested in learning more about aquatic insects, call Stroud Water Research Center at (610) 268-2153, ext. 239 or (610) 268-2954 for more information.