How you can help keep track of P.E.I.'s water quality as a river watcher

·2 min read
River watchers help the provincial government keep track of water quality in the province. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)
River watchers help the provincial government keep track of water quality in the province. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)

Watershed associations across P.E.I. are looking for Islanders to join in on a program that helps keep an eye, and a nose, on the province's rivers.

The river watchers program was set up about a decade ago in collaboration between the watershed associations and the Department of the Environment.

"What it was meant to do was to kind of complement some of the more scientific studies that were being done on water quality on the rivers in Prince Edward Island," said John Lane of the the Cascumpec Bay Watershed Association.

"What they're asking the river watchers to do was to visually look at the water that is near them, whether it's a river brook, a pond or whatever it is, and to make observations."

River watchers are given a logbook to help keep track of their observations.
River watchers are given a logbook to help keep track of their observations.(Government of P.E.I.)

One of the things river watchers might look for is the water turning green or milky white, which indicates an anoxic event, which is caused by an excess of nutrients in the water and can be deadly for animal life in the stream. Anoxic events have a particular smell associated with them as well.

But the river watchers can catch more subtle changes as well, said Lane.

The changes of colour or smell, or perhaps a particularly high tide, are recorded in a logbook. Those observations are tabulated and cross referenced with other observations, such as weather conditions or measurements by scientific equipment in the area, and provide a more complete picture of the overall health of the waterway.

A stream observed by a river watcher might be one they drive by regularly.
A stream observed by a river watcher might be one they drive by regularly.(Amar Shah/CBC)

Anyone can be a river watcher, said Lane. While they are expected to make regular observations, they don't necessarily have to live right on the water.

"They're people who travel and go by a certain river bridge or whatnot, and every day they might take a look," said Lane.

Anyone interested in becoming a river watcher should contact their local watershed association.

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