Get involved - community groups & individual volunteers
An active community can and does make a big difference. Waterwatch will be able to help you:
- Investigate your catchment: Identify the physical parts of the catchment, the landform, the rocks and soils, the rainfall patterns, and the living things such as plants and animals.
- Understand what is happening in your catchment: Look at the land uses in the catchment - industry, agriculture, roads and rail corridors, communities, and changes over time.
- Identify water quality problems: How is land use affecting water quality? What are the key problems? Common water quality problems are pollution, erosion, channel obstructions, over extraction, over use by some recreational activities.
- Set up a monitoring program for water quality: Monitoring water quality will identify if land use or a particular source is causing water quality problems.
- Identify solutions: For each environmental problem, there are a range of solutions. Knowing what the problems are and how bad they are will help identify the best solutions.
- Take action to help fix the problems: Identify issues that affect the waterway and decide on actions to fix the problems. Some solutions can be as simple as planting some trees to help stop erosion. Others are more complex. The solution always starts with a decision to do something.
Monitoring your waterway health
|Hallidays Point Landcare Waterwatch training. |
Photo: Kristy Hughes, Waterwatch Catchment Officer, MidCoast Water
A Waterwatch group might measure the following water quality attributes:
- Temperature: changes in water temperature over time
- Turbidity: clarity of water
- Conductivity: a measure of salinity levels
- pH: acidity of the water
- Oxygen: the amount of oxygen in the water
- Available phosphates: an important nutrient that feeds growth of algae and weeds
For further instructions on these, please refer to the Waterwatch manuals and field guides.
There are some additional tests that identify contamination from humans and animals. Please contact your local Coordinator for more information.
In addition to these physical and chemical parameters you may find collecting macroinvertebrates (bugs) a useful indicator of waterway health.
Waterwatch coordinators can help groups investigate and understand their catchment and help them prepare a Waterwatch Monitoring Plan. A Monitoring Plan helps groups make sure the right parameters are being monitored, at the right frequency, with the right equipment, using the right techniques.
Your Waterwatch Monitoring Plan will reflect the time available, budget, and accuracy requirements.
The Waterwatch Manuals include a checklist to get you started, and tips on things to watch out for.
Other events run during the year that will enhance your involvement in Waterwatch include the Autumn and Spring Water Bug Surveys and National Waterweek activities held each year.
If you or your community group have a project in mind, or would like to monitor your local waterway, please call your local Waterwatch coordinator.
Starting a riverbank rehabilitation project
Where do you start?
Two hundred years of land use change can leave a lot of damage, and in most cases we can't wait as long again to repair the damage.
A lot has been learned about rehabilitating streams over the last decades.
Much of this knowledge has been put together in the publication "A Rehabilitation Manual for Australian Streams" (Rutherford, Jerie and Marsh 2000). This text is highly recommended and can be downloaded from the Land and Water Australia website
Land and Water Australia, a research and development project supported by the Co-operative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology and the Federal Government, have produced an interactive CD ROM based on the above manual showing how to carry out a river rehabilitation project from start to finish. The CD, called "A Process for Rehabilitating Australian Streams" is available with the permission of Land and Water Australia http://lwa.gov.au/products/ec010029
The manual also includes a comprehensive summary of the series of River Information Fact Sheets, Riverwise: Guidelines for Stream Management, Produced by: Hurst, A, Duckman, J. and Stewart, D. (1993) NSW Department of Water Resources, Sydney. This text includes facts on a range of things such as stabilising streambanks with planting, choosing plants and structures to prevent erosion etc.
Finding help from others
There are many sources of information and help when it comes to repairing our waterways. Your catchment investigation should identify who owns the land in the area you are interested in and what government authorities are involved.
The main sources of help and information are:
- local councils and water authorities
- catchment management authorities
- Office of Environment and Heritage
- National Parks and Wildlife Service
- local community environmental groups
- Landcare groups and networks
Other sources of help include sponsorship and local media
Sponsorship can be very useful in helping Waterwatch groups to purchase equipment and promote your project. Examples of the type of sponsorship helping the program across NSW are:
- local industry
- local water authorities
- local community organisations (e.g. Rotary, Lions)
- local councils,
- P & C committees,
- progress associations, and
- fund raising activities (e.g. sausage sizzles).
Local media are always on the look out for an interesting story. If you would like to promote your project, or encourage other people to help achieve your aims, the local media can be a big help.
Tips on getting an article in the local media are:
- Let them know in advance: An advance warning phone call, letter, or media release about your planned activity can allow the media to schedule your activity for an article or an interview. If the media are unable to be there on the day, send a follow up media release anyway with a photograph including people and their names and it will often get published.
- K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid): Keep the information brief and relevant. Give all of the facts including who is involved, why you are doing it, what you expect to achieve, and how others can help. But always remember, keep the information simple, brief and relevant. A media release should be no more than one A4 page, using an easy to read font size. Always include an available contact so that if further information is required the media can follow up.
- Focus on people or other visible connections to the story. If there is a key person involved, give a personal perspective. Always include quotes in the media release, or list contact details of people who can give quotes. Make your quotes brief and to the point. If there is a visual symbol of the project, e.g. a platypus, fish, or rare species, make it a symbol of the project and give the vital statistics, e.g. last breeding pair in this section of the river, range restricted to X.
- Photographs are essential: Always send print media a photograph with an article. Photos should not be large panoramas (unless of a very high quality). Avoid staged "mug shots" in unnatural looking poses. Focus on a few key people doing an activity and keep them large in the photo.
- If getting interviewed on radio: Relax, be natural, and don't try and rehearse your answers or they may sound artificial. Have a "cheat sheet" with all of the facts written down such as contact numbers, dates, meeting points etc.
- If getting interviewed on television: Most television interviewers will do their best to make you feel comfortable. Relax, act naturally, speak slowly and clearly, and always remember, get a friend to record the news so you have a copy of the interview!
Always inform your local Waterwatch coordinator if you get local media to cover your story, so they are aware of the story.
Remember, one of the key objectives of Waterwatch is to have fun. It's easy to get so caught up in a project that you forget to have fun.
Two key things to remember are the Spring and Autumn Water Bug Surveys, and National Waterweek.
- The NSW Water Bug Survey is a twice yearly activity where group's survey waterways for macroinvertebrates or water bugs to help get a snapshot of how healthy their waterway is. The tiny creatures that live in water vary in their sensitivity to changes in the water. In highly disturbed poor water quality waterways, only the very hardy bugs that are not sensitive to changes will be present. In good quality waterways, water bugs that are sensitive to change will also be found. The survey gives an indication of waterway health based on the abundance and diversity of bugs captured.
You would be amazed how much fun you can have looking through magnifying glasses to see what sort of bugs live in your waterway. The bug survey is a great way of getting local children and adults to understand more about their local environment, and connect with their local waterway. They may not understand why a polluted waterway is a bad thing in itself, but if they see the little animals that may get killed if a waterway becomes polluted, they get a much clearer idea of how pollution can effect the environment.
- National Waterweek is held in October of each year. If you are planning a promotional or educational activity, it's often a good idea to list it as part of the National Waterweek celebrations. For more information visit the national Waterweek website.
If you would like advice on planning an activity, or you would like to get it listed in the calendar of events, contact your local Waterwatch coordinator.
New NSW Waterwatch coordinators being trained by the Hunter-Central Rivers CMA
Page last updated: 16 January 2013