By Dino W. Buchanan, Honolulu District Public Affairs – (FORT SHAFTER, HI NR23-11) Honolulu District staff teamed up with the City and County of Honolulu Storm Water Quality Branch, State Department of Health’s Wastewater Branch and Clean Water Branch, Punahou School Mamiya Science Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Nature Center and more than 100 Anuenue School students Sept. 22 as part of Oahu’s annual World Water Monitoring Day activities in the Makiki watershed.
“The Corps of Engineers has an educational outreach mission – and part of that mission on Oahu is educating the public – and students – on how the Ala Wai and Makiki watersheds work,” said Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Angela Jones, from Honolulu District’s Pacific Regional Visitor Center at Fort DeRussy. “For World Water Monitoring Day we encourage students to learn the basics about the watershed, allow them to test and analyze stream water using holistic methods.”
At this year’s event, which was held at the Hawaii Nature Center within the Makiki watershed, the students in grades six through 12 rotated through nine instructional stations where they listened to various presentations on enviroscape-modeling, erosion, soil screening, native plant recognition, watershed principles and were taught how to use LaMotte water test kits to analyze water samples from Makiki Stream.
Technical experts from the various participating agencies also provided detailed explanations about water quality and provided GPS equipment training. Simple tests using the Lamont kits included those for dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity (clarity), temperature, phosphates and nitrates. Students used GPS devices to identify specific sampling locations.
Jessie Paahana, a biologist from Honolulu District’s Regulatory Branch, directed an instructional station entitled “Watershed Function” where students were given the opportunity to symbolically become the water or a pollutant flowing through a watershed that was obstructed by boulders, stones, gravel, sand and foliage.
“This demonstration was a great way for students to get a hands-on and visual understanding about how the watershed really works,” said Paahana. “It’s not easy for water to transit through the watershed. If they remember this basic demonstration out of all of today’s events, then I think they will have grasped the watershed water flow concept.”
Following the water testing students will be able to upload their data to a special section of the World Water Monitoring Day website, which is then added to data collected worldwide. Students can view the results of their work online and compare their findings with other students.
David White, from Punahou School who provided instruction during the event, said he tries to instill in students a sense of responsibility for the water we use each day.
“Water – not only in Hawaii – is a very precious resource,” White told the students. “Protecting the environment and watersheds that provide our water resource in Hawaii is vitality important as we are so far away from all other land masses. Most of the fresh water we use and drink comes from watersheds – just like the one we are standing in today.”
White also told the students they have to understand the water cycle – how rain water works through the watershed and eventually can end up as drinking water.
While regulatory stream monitoring is conducted throughout the year by the City’s Storm Water Quality Branch, World Water Monitoring Day is a vital way for students, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and community members to understand the importance of water quality. In 2010, more than 200,000 people in 85 countries monitored their local waterways as part of World Water Monitoring Day.
The City and County of Honolulu, State of Hawaii Department of Health and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have co-sponsored World Water Monitoring Day since 2003.
World Water Monitoring Day is an initiative organized by the Water Environment Federation and the International Water Association, designed to promote education and personal stewardship regarding water ecosystems and resources. The City and County of Honolulu and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are spearheading this effort, along with thousands of volunteers worldwide, by sampling water quality and reporting findings. Local schools like Anuenue use this event to help satisfy school earth science standards and remain vigilant in protecting the environment.