Shannon Williamson, Director of the Lake Pend Orielle Waterkeepr (LPOW), holds a PhD in Marine Science and has been with LPOW since 2011, spoke to the Happy Hour group on February 1, 2018. One of the founders of LPOW, Steve Holt, accompanied her.
LPOW, which is accredited by the national Waterkeepers, seeks to do water quality monitoring on the 40 mile-long lake and 20 miles of the Pend Orielle River as well. This work is done by volunteer citizen- scientists following rigorous training by LPOW.
Once trained, the volunteers head out in boats, kayaks, or even paddle boards to one of the 15 sites to obtain the water sample following strict water quality monitoring protocols. This is to ensure the Quality Assurance (QAPP) level that will be accepted and used by state and federal agencies.
Once the samples and data sheets are turned in, a lab analyzes the water sample with biological, chemical, and physical testing. Biological includes tests for E. Coli and Coliform bacteria. The chemical test is for phosphorus and nitrogen levels of nutrients in the water. The physical tests include water temperature, turbidity, transparency, PH, and Dissolved Oxygen. Once the data for all there tests are completed, you get a big picture of the condition of the water in your lake or river. Can you drink it? Can you swim in it? Is it fishable?
Finally, LPOW posts all the data on a website so that it is public and available to agencies for use in policy or regulations so that the water quality—drinkable, swimmable, healthy for fish and wildlife—is known. Or if it is having problems, the data can be used to figure out what is happening and how to fix it. Additionally, the data that is collected June through October of each year (since 2012) will provide a continual, long-term information resource on water quality. This is important in understanding problems or trends in the lake and river systems.
For example, Shannon pointed out the research had found that Boyer Slough, a shallow area, which is the receiving water for a water treatment plant, does suffer from some problems with nutrients and dissolved oxygen levels.
LPOW would like to see storm water monitoring begin, but there is none at the moment, a critical loss that needs to be addressed in the future. The organization also seeks to provide the data they gather in more easily accessible and comprehensible ways. They also work to reach kids through a water camp conducted in the summers. The citizen-scientists become great advocates for the lake and river and gain in knowledge that they share in the community. LPOW has been in existence since 2011 and KEA Waterkeeper and LPOW plan to work in collaboration in the future to keep our beautiful waterways safe and clean for people and wildlife.