Water quality monitoring in the Resurrection Bay Watershed

Citizens Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP)
Program Background
RBCA launched CEMP, a volunteer water quality monitoring program, in the spring of 2008; with the primary goal of collecting and documenting baseline data to record the existing conditions in our watershed. Collecting this data is especially important now, as there has been no thorough documentation of stream water quality in Seward area streams prior to the inception of CEMP. Trained CEMP volunteers sample local anadromous (salmon-spawning) streams twice monthly in the summer months and once monthly during the remainder of the year. These volunteers receive an intensive training (at no charge), enabling them to collect scientifically rigorous, legally defensible data. Dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, conductivity, and total dissolved solids are some of the parameters tested.
All data will also be entered in a DEC and EPA-approved database, and will be made available for the public, state, and federal agencies via this website in the near future. This information is valuable to planners and land managers, and sets a standard for all future watershed uses. It will also track water quality trends and detects changes. Significant changes in water quality will be promptly reported to Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Justin & Jenelle
Scientists Justin & Jenelle at spring training

Seward currently has 16 active CEMP volunteer scientists! On April 2-3, RBCA hosted its third annual CEMP “spring training.” Eight new people joined the elite cadre of intrepid volunteers who brave the elements year-round to sample our streams.
A re-certification training (date to be announced) is slated for the “old hands” who must re-demonstrate their skills and abilities annually in order to remain certified and in compliance with the CEMP Quality Assurance Program. These CEMP citizen scientists have been diligently collecting water quality data from our area’s salmon streams for two years now.

Last fall RBCA received a generous grant from the Bullitt Foundation, which allowed us to hire a part-time Stream Monitoring Coordinator to oversee the CEMP. This funding also enabled us to purchase more instruments necessary to test additional stream sites. With the addition of our new volunteers this spring, we will be able to obtain our goal of sampling ten streams. Pending additional funding, we also plan to test these sites for more parameters, including fecal coliform bacteria. The presence of high levels of coliform bacteria in our streams suggests septic system failure. Since the majority of the population within our watershed lives outside of city limits and are on septic systems, (occasionally not “up to code,” and often subject to flooding events) it is especially important we test for fecal coliforms.

We also plan to implement a continuous temperature monitoring program using data loggers in selected streams. These tiny, user-friendly units will be placed in streams and programmed to record water temperature every 15 minutes. Round-the-clock monitoring is considered superior to one time “snapshots” of water temperatures for documenting ecosystem conditions. Water temperature is often the main factor in a stream’s ability to support successful fish spawning. In addition to predicted global warming trends, development (construction) near or adjacent to streams usually requires clearing vegetation, and decreasing shade, or cover. Loss of cover could result in increased water temperatures and adverse impacts to salmonid reproduction. Although adult salmon can migrate through water above 13C (55F), this temperature will not support successful spawning or hatching of eggs. As the remaining buildable land in our community is almost solely located in riparian areas, monitoring stream temperature and obtaining baseline numbers now is of utmost importance.

For more information on the CEMP program, or to sign up for next year’s spring training, please call RBCA or e-mail
Click here to read the 2009 Annual CEMP Report