Testing the waters of the Metroparks

The Water Crisis in August 2014 jump started more attention and testing of our water resources, and that initiative includes Metroparks Toledo.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT
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MAUMEE, Ohio (WTVG) - There are a number of entities in our area that do water quality testing.

We have eyes on Lake Erie, but we also have some of them on the Maumee River. And some of those eyes belong to Metroparks Toledo.

“Metroparks has been involved in Citizen Science initiatives for a very long time,” said Jennifer Elsworth.

Elsworth is the manager of requested programs of Metroparks Toledo. She also handles the water testing at Side Cut Metropark.

Citizen Science is a partnership between curious citizens and science professionals.

Elsworth told 13abc that the partnership is a result of the 2014 water crisis.

“This was really born out of the 2014 water crisis, and we have a really robust group of volunteers at Metroparks, and they kind of approached us and said, ‘hey, you know, we would like to learn a little more about water health. Could we do some water quality monitoring?’” Elsworth said.

This monitoring doesn’t specifically look for a Harmful Algal Bloom, but for evidence of a healthy river. And that happens at three sites: Side Cut Metropark, Farnsworth, and Providence.

That evidence is found in the number of macro-invertebrates.

“We look at crayfish, caddisfly larva, mayfly, dragonfly nymphs,” Elsworth explained. “They’re really good barometers of stream health. They’re the bottom of the food chains, so if any pollutants are in the water, it’s going to start to affect that population before it moves up.”

Right now, Elsworth said the numbers point to a healthy Maumee River.

All the numbers go back to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. With data dating back to the 1980s, plus this research, ODNR can see trends of pollution in the river and take action if needed.

For now, volunteers only collect numbers. However, next year, the program will expand to measure other characteristics of the water itself. And Metroparks Toledo will need more volunteers. “It’s very easy to do, it’s very approachable, even if you don’t have a science background, you can learn to test the water and really have a lot of fun with us in the outdoors too,” Elsworth assured.

That program will include chemical testing, like tracking the pH, conductivity, salinity, and temperature of water in the Maumee River.

In addition to Citizen Science, Metroparks Toledo is part of another program that is piloting equipment meant to track algae. That program, the Lake Erie Volunteer Science Network, includes 16 entities all along Lake Erie, from Michigan to New York.

If you’d like to become a volunteer and get involved with water quality testing, you can find more information on the Metroparks website.

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