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Water monitoring benefits us all

By Staff
With a span of nearly 180 miles and 19 counties, it’s hard to grasp the total picture of the Pamlico-Tar River basin.
Until now.
The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation has announced the completion of an interactive Web map, now available on its Web site, www.ptrf.org.
In 2005, PTRF was one of eight grant recipients in North Carolina of an Environmental Enhancement Grant. Grant funds were used to establish a Citizen’s Watershed Monitoring Program for Pitt, Edgecombe, and Nash counties. A portion of the grant funds was used to create the interactive Web-mapping tool, produced by the company MapServing.com.
The map is new, but collecting the data is not. Each month, volunteers collect water samples that provide snapshots of water quality within the sampled stream. Over time, PTRF compiles the information and reports to state and local agencies and governments the conditions of streams that are typically unmonitored by current government or research programs.
The North Carolina Department of Natural Resources monitors area waters, but doesn’t have the resources to monitor everything, Jacobs said Tuesday. That’s where PTRF comes in.
Currently, volunteers are sampling 20 streams each month, and the program will add 10 monitoring sites in Nash County this year. The monitoring program works in coordination with the Volunteer Water Information Network, developed by the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Many of PTRF’s efforts have been upstream from the Washington area, but more could be done if funds and volunteers were available. Beaufort County may be one of 19 counties in the river basin, but 16 percent of the river basin is in Beaufort County. Another 22 percent is in Hyde County. Monitoring upstream clearly has benefits to us all Down East.
Being a volunteer is not that difficult. The initial training takes about three hours. After that, it takes about an hour a month. On the second Saturday of each month, volunteers take samples that are later analyzed.
Even with volunteers, it costs about $500 a year to monitor one site each month.
Potential contamination sources, including pollution-discharge permits, landfills, and large animal operations are displayed for the entire basin. Two features recently added include aerial imagery and an address finder. This allows individuals to view the watershed in their own backyards.
The long-term benefits of the monitoring project will clearly be helpful.