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What You Can Do For Your Watershed

On Wednesday, July 18, I met with a dedicated group of citizen scientists who gathered to learn more about how to get involved with policy in their watershed. Hosted at the Visitor Center of the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust in the Pennypack Preserve, 15 volunteers from watershed organizations throughout the greater Philadelphia area participated, including representatives from the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, the Tookany-Tacony/Frankford Watershed Partnership, Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, and Friends of Poquessing Watershed.

Citizen scientists play an important role in protecting our waterways. Watershed organizations have recruited and trained volunteers to sample water quality and look for signs of pollution that traditional surveys may have missed. Citizen scientists are trained to identify the most visible signs of pollution, such as debris, water discoloration, odors, surface films and sheens, fish kills, and algal blooms. Volunteers also sample water and test for nutrients, such as phosphorus and chlorine. A volunteer scientist can sometimes be the first line of defense against pollution in our waterways—seeing the warning signs firsthand and alerting coordinators, emergency responders, and the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP).

The purpose of the gathering was to explore ways that citizen scientists can transform their data and water testing experiences into policy action and change. We partnered with Gayle Killam, Deputy Director of Science and Policy at River Network, Lindsay Blanton, Water Programs Coordinator for Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, and Kevin Roth, Stewardship Assistant for Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, to discuss how data and personal stories can make a difference for our waterways through participating at regulatory hearings, commenting on permits, and advocating for stronger legislative protections.

There are many avenues you can take to protect our waterways, too. For instance, when you find pollution in your creek, you can take immediate action by calling the PA DEP “Emergencies and Spills Hotline” (1-800-541-2050). When pollution causes a fish kill, for example, your advocacy and knowledge can help raise awareness about it and resolve the problem through stronger regulations and more effective policies. 

If you are interested in learning how you can take action in your watershed, contact me at if you would like to know more! 
For additional resources, including our “Be a Watershed Watchdog Guide," click here.

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