Creek Watchers Annual Report Cards
The Creek Watchers program aims to expand the collection of ambient surface water quality data and engage local citizens in the process of monitoring their waterways. Creek Watchers serve as Charleston Waterkeeper’s eyes and ears on the water, helping to expand the geographic reach of sites that are regularly being tested. Their efforts help keep us informed of water quality issues and work to drive policy change for our waterways.
Creek Watchers conduct independent monthly testing for air temperature, water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, and water clarity. These data have been condensed and compiled into an annual report card for each site monitored. Take a look at the map and select a site to see how the water quality fared. Please note that this map does not include all of the sites that are monitored by our Creek Watchers, just the sites that had enough monitoring data for an annual report card.
Letter grades were assigned based on how a parameter scored over the year against the water quality standard. For example, if results for dissolved oxygen met the water quality standard 85% of the time during the year, the site was assigned a B for dissolved oxygen. While there is no numerical standard for debris in the water, the narrative standard states that there should be none. Therefore, grades for debris were assigned based on how many times the Creek Watcher reported debris at the site.
Water temperature met the water quality standard at all sites for the entire year. This is our best performing parameter across the board. Extreme fluctuations in water temperature can have detrimental effects on wildlife so it is critical that this parameter be monitored.
pH, the measure of how acidic or basic the water is, met the water quality standard most of the time, for an overall grade of B. pH is generally pretty stable at each site and shows little fluctuation from month to month. Abnormally low or high pH values can stress wildlife, adversely affect egg hatching and shellfish growth, and cause fish kills.
Dissolved oxygen (DO), the amount of available oxygen in the water, is one of the most variable parameters that our Creek Watchers test. Levels of DO in the water vary based on temperature, salinity, wind, and wave action. It is normal to see seasonal variations in DO due to temperature changes. Low DO in the water is an indicator of stress on the ecosystem and can lead to problems such as fish kills. However, many local waterways have naturally low levels of DO.
Water clarity, how much light can penetrate through water, is also variable but showed an overall grade of A. Clarity tends to show a lot of seasonal variation just like dissolved oxygen. Aquatic plants and photosynthesizing organisms rely on light being able to reach them, so water clarity is key. Low water clarity can result in stress on animals’ ability to see and breathe in the water.
Debris in the water is not just unsightly, it can also present hazards to wildlife that depend on the water. Entanglement and consumption are dangerous and often life-threatening. Creek Watchers report monthly on debris conditions at their site – no trash, trash cleaned up, or this site needs an organized cleanup. Their reports have led to several larger cleanup efforts over the years!
To see a full list of the 2021 report cards, click here.