GALENA Mo. --The revenue generated by Missouri's rivers and streams is in the millions, but a free service is helping preserve those waters for the future. Volunteers will the state's "Stream Team" began water quality testing this month in the Ozarks.
Among the organizations in the state that rely on "Stream Team" volunteers is Ozarks Water Watch. The non-profit focuses its efforts on the Upper White River Watershed, testing 21 sites in southwest Missouri.
"People in the nation look to Missouri when they want to start a Stream Team program," says Ozarks Water Watch member, Ronna Haxby.
Haxby and a crew of two other volunteers focus their efforts just north of Galena on Crane Creek. Spending more than 3 hours: wading in the water, collecting critters and monitoring just about every level you can think of, "Oxygen saturation of the water, Phosphorous and Nitrogen, " Haxby listed among others
"It tells us that there's good quality in the stream and the kind of life are very sensitive," Haxby said while lifting a tarp out from the water, trapping more than 50 invertebrates like crawdads and mayflies.
"It's a very good opportunity to contribute to something larger than yourself," says Stream Team volunteer Lyn McKenzie, "it's fun to get out in nature, and you have to get out here... so it's a good excuse to take off work."
Each volunteer has a specific site they are required to test four times a year. Lyn McKenzie is just one of roughly 20,000 volunteers in the state, all of which are given free training, along with a free testing set to take to their respective sites.
"I'd say over all the water quality in the Ozarks is good," says Ronna Haxby, "and some of our creeks and streams are pristine, now we do have some challenges."
Haxby says the biggest threats to Missouri's streams are pollutants from agricultural and urban runoff, along with leaking septic systems. She says the only way to balance the ecosystem below the water, is to manage the one above it.
"Where do we decide enough is enough," says Haxby, "because we have to have an economy that functions, and we have to have clean water."
Haxby says thanks, in part, to "Stream Team" volunteers, Ozarks Water Watch will be able to monitor trends in Nitrogen levels for the first time in 2014. She says increased Nitrogen levels can lead to Algae blooms which can be deadly to fish, animals and in some cases, humans.
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