by Lisa Wallace, Executive Director

Why do we spend so much time collecting dots of data on water quality? Why collect all these dots: observations about stream side conditions, dissolved oxygen and ph tests, turbidity and sediment samples?

Because we want to connect the dots, to see the pattern, to get the insights the dots/data reveal. To do that we need a big bagful of dots collected over a long time period.

We have been collecting water quality data dots for about a decade through professional monitoring and Adopt-A-Stream volunteer-based monitoring. We finally have a pretty big bagful.

We’re connecting those dots and we’re beginning to see the picture they form. Here are a few insights about water quality of the Truckee River:

  • Compared to reference streams, the Truckee River consistently scored lower on the Eastern Sierra Index of Biological Integrity (a standard of biological health);
  • The number and size of macroinvertabrates (water bugs) are decreasing in the Truckee River;
  • Sediment deposition is widespread in the Truckee River.

The data – the dots – are important. But it is also essential we understand what the data tells us – and they are telling us the Truckee River, while beautiful, is not healthy. It is impaired/polluted for excess sedimentation. We do, in fact, need to manage erosion from all human-triggered sources.

Here’s another part of the insight – while Adopt-A-Stream and River-Friendly Landscaping are fun, they are contributing significantly to understanding and preventing erosion.

These programs are another important set of dots to be connected in the picture of the Truckee River watershed.