You may have seen some people with boots wading in local runs or streams. Some carry nets and others vials for collecting water samples. Their samples will be examined in a lab under a microscope where biologists will inspect the contents and count organisms including those affectionately known as macroinvertebrates. Microinvertebrates are large enough to see with the naked eye and include insects, crustaceans, molluscs, arachnids and annelids. These living things have no backbones. Some are more sensitive to water quality than others. Determining what is present is one way to assess the condition of our various waterways.
“The Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management coordinates the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program. After participating in County-sponsored training, stream monitors wade into Arlington’s streams and report back important environmental data that we use to monitor long-term trends of our streams. The resident-collected data is also reported to the state as a part of our municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit.”
One thing that got this reporter’s attention is that we have an Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management.” That’s impressive because economic sustainability is a top priority concern and it is integrated by correlating the way we live with our effect on our environment.
Hiking around our county, you might wonder what it was like before we all crowded into this small space that was carved out as half of a square by Pierre Charles L’Enfant. In the earliest pioneer days, the Potomac River was renowned by Native Americans for its bountiful fishing. Captain John Smith observed this too. The water was clean and sufficiently cold to support trout and sturgeon among a variety of other species.
Progress did the the fishes in as agriculture and industry polluted the watershed that includes the feeders from other states where mining and industrial pollution combined with farming to lower the water quality. Here in Virginia, we are victims of theirs as well as our own practices.
Upstream, Maryland and West Virginia are trying with some success to clean up the water and to bring back the trout, for instance. They have strengthened laws governing mining and have done things like adding doses of lime to the streams. That has brought back some of the desirable fishes.
Yet, between here and there, we have a whole lot of work to do. Some thought should be given to enlarging our open waterways and marshes. That would require removing some of the underground storm sewers to create more green space. That would require investing in some bridge building and public property acquisition. Commercial developers should be encouraged to build up, not out, and to create more green space and canopy in their plans. It all begins with citizens expressing their desires and expectations.
There truly is no reason to accept dirty waterways when the alternative is just keeping them clean and taking care of our precious air and water.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Monitor
Arlington County is very lucky to have an amazing cadre of dedicated stream volunteers. Our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, but they all share a curiosity about our environment and a passion for learning more about it. Our volunteers recently completed their spring sampling at the macroinvertebrate stations. Amongst the many talents that our volunteers have, we have some photographers amongst us! Enjoy these shots taken during our spring season."