Community-based Water Quality Monitoring by the Upper Oconee Watershed Network
Conners, Deanna E.
Merrill, Michael D.
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The Upper Oconee Watershed Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting streams and rivers by community oriented water quality education, advocacy and monitoring. Presently, community volunteers have collected water quality data on over 150 sites in the Middle and North Oconee Rivers. The purpose of this study was to compile data on visual assessments, physical and chemical analyses (temperature, pH, turbidity, conductivity and dissolved oxygen) and biological measurements (fecal coliform levels and macroinvertebrate indices) from 11 primary sites to evaluate seasonal trends in water quality and to assess the effects of land-use on water quality in the Upper Oconee watershed. Of all parameters tested, biological measurements were the most sensitive indicators of degraded water quality. Seasonally, water temperatures and fecal coliform levels were highest in the summer, whereas dissolved oxygen concentrations were lowest. Turbidity was highest in the spring and winter possibly because of increased rainfall and corresponding runoff during that time. Water quality degradation was more apparent at sites with urban land-uses. Together, these data illustrate the importance of including land-use observations and seasonal biological assessments in community-based water quality monitoring.