Update on Water Quality Monitoring in the TTF watershed

Julie Slavet
Oct 27, 2015

This blog is drawn from a letter and attachments provided to our municipal partners — Abington, Jenkintown, and Cheltenham —  in September.

Dear Municipal Partners:

We wanted to take the opportunity to inform you about the water quality monitoring efforts being implemented as part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), an effort to protect and restore the Delaware River watershed led by the William Penn Foundation. The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) is proud to be part of the DRWI Philadelphia Upstream Suburban Cluster which includes the Tookany, Pennypack, Wissahickon, Poquessing, and Cobbs Creek watersheds. The primary goal of these water quality monitoring efforts is to measure the impact of stream restoration and protection projects that have been funded through the Delaware River Restoration Fund of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Projects funded to date focus on the Jenkintown Creek at Abington Friends School, the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great, and McKinley Elementary School in Abington.

TTF’s water quality monitoring program consists of both staff and citizen monitoring at a total of 24 sites across our watershed communities: Baeder Creek, Burholme Creek, Jenkintown Creek, Mill Run, Rock Creek, and Tookany Creek as well as three unnamed tributaries.  Nine of these sites are in Abington and fifteen are in Cheltenham.  Our twenty one Streamkeepers — or citizen monitors — visit eighteen sites on a monthly basis and staff visit seven sites on a quarterly basis.  We are pleased that eleven of Streamkeepers live in Cheltenham, four live in Abington, three live in Jenkintown, and three are Philadelphia residents. Since June of 2014, over 100 assessments have been performed across the watershed.

Pages from MonitoringSiteMap_TTF_v_Final

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the Stroud Water Research Center oversee this initiative and lead us in the development of monitoring protocols. TTF staff monitors the condition of the creek and trends in water quality at project sites through chemical sampling, physical measurements, biological surveys and habitat assessments.  In addition, both Villanova and Temple Universities are part of the Upstream Suburban Cluster monitoring effort, bringing the expertise of faculty and graduate students as well as cutting edge technology. The Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership focuses on the effectiveness of the stormwater control measures (SCM) installed, while Temple University focuses on overall monitoring and modelling. In 2013 and 2015, the Academy of Natural Sciences sampled for algae, macroinvertebrates, crayfish, fish, salamanders, and riparian habitat in our watershed at the Tookany Creek in Cheltenham at Tookany Creek Parkway and Ashmead Road. The Academy also tests at this site for water chemistry, temperature, and flow on a seasonal basis.

We provide our Streamkeepers with training to identify signs of stream health and document erosion, algae cover, aquatic food sources, water clarity, stream flow and temperature changes in the creek. Each Streamkeeper adopts one site (or more) to visit monthly, taking photographs, performing basic chemistry tests, completing a creek assessment, and reporting their data.  Some Streamkeepers also perform chemical monitoring, testing for chloride (from road salt), nitrogen (from fertilizer), and pH (other urban sources). Streamkeepers come from a variety of backgrounds with diverse skills; a few even possess PhDs in science while for others, this is their first experience in basic chemistry and biology.

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Our Streamkeepers have also received specialized training by water quality scientists, as well as plant specialists. We support their participation by offering regular educational programs. We encourage our Streamkeepers to work in teams; some have even started to partner with neighbors, friends, and family to complete their monthly assessments. Streamkeepers eager to learn more support staff quarterly monitoring. These volunteers are also a valuable source of assistance for our many hands-on community education, clean-up, restoration and advocacy efforts.

We hope you will agree that being part of this monitoring initiative provides our watershed with an unprecedented opportunity to identify strategies to improve water quality.  We know that you will join us in commending the efforts of our Streamkeepers, these committed citizen volunteers!

Attached please find the following documents with information on these various efforts:

Here’s the Streamkeepers page on our website where you can view our sites and learn more!

Our combined efforts will help us understand the Tookany Watershed and what we need to do to improve the health of our creeks.  Please let us know if you would like additional information on any of the monitoring efforts we have mentioned or if you would like us to present this information at a meeting. We look forward to working with you on this and other initiatives.

Interested in learning more about becoming a Streamkeeper? Contact Alex Cooper at cooper@ttwatershed.org or 215-744-1853.

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