Saving Our Streams


While over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, less than 1% of that water is available to people. With the hope of providing a better understanding of water ecology, the Pocahontas County Water Resources Task Force will offer a stream monitoring and quality testing workshop in Marlinton this month.

The event is a partnership with West Virginia Save our Streams, a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) program designed to preserve and restore the state’s waters through teaching volunteers how to monitor local streams and rivers.  Glenn Nelson is the Save Our Streams coordinator for West Virginia.

“My program is to empower West Virginia citizens to become citizen scientists,” Nelson said. “My job is to make sure that I teach them how to get out and monitor for water quality.”

According to Nelson, the workshop focuses on three factors. “Chemistry, so dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, a whole gamut of things. Then the second thing is we’re going to talk a little bit about habitat; how much vegetation is on either  side of the creek, bank stability. The very last thing we do is by far what people enjoy the most. It’s the biological part.”

The program uses a biosurvey approach to stream study, which includes the collection and evaluation of aquatic organisms called “benthic macro-invertebrates.” These invertebrates live in the water for all or most of their lives. They’re also easy to collect and identify for scientific purposes.

“Those aquatic insects actually tell us the health of the stream” Nelson said. “Because of their life cycle, they live that way for about two years as juveniles and then ultimately hatch, and we see them flying around with us. You get that two year window of whether a stream has been healthy for two years based on the age class of these aquatic insects that we’re finding. They tell the health because we know they’re pollution tolerant.”

Participants will also have the opportunity to receive certification at the end of the event. By providing this workshop, the WRTF hopes that Pocahontas County residents will learn  how to assess the conditions of nearby water bodies.  The ultimate goal is to establish a network of volunteers educated on what to observe when it comes to saving a stream.

According to Nelson, they’re definitely worth saving. “We just had a huge water crisis in Charleston, and 300,000 people were affected with not knowing whether or not they were going to be able to drink their water,” he said. “So being aware, knowing that our own health is directly related to the health of our waterways and the water that we drink and rely on. We can take responsibility for our most valuable resource, and empowering people to become citizen scientists, it’s really empowering people to make a change and make a difference.”

The workshop will take place in the Greenbrier River at Stillwell Park, on Saturday August 16th from 10am to 3pm. The registration deadline for this event is Wednesday August 13th.  To sign up, call 304-376-1996 or email

Story By

Megan Moriarty

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