July 20, 2019 | 78° F

Rutgers community recognizes World Water Monitoring Day for the 1st time ever

Photo by Henry Fowler |

This year, the local New Brunswick community celebrated World Water Day by testing the water from the Raritan River.

Last week, both Rutgers University and the City of New Brunswick joined the global community to contribute to the good health and sustainability of the Raritan River in observance of World Water Monitoring Day.

On Monday, local- and school-age volunteers gathered to collaborate on a water monitoring expedition of the Raritan River.

World Water Monitoring Day is an annual, global initiative urging communities around the world to test the quality of their waterways and encourage water protection.

The event was organized by local nonprofit Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP), along with Rutgers University’s Raritan Scholars and Rutgers' Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program members.

This year is the first time that New Brunswick’s Raritan River participated in the initiative, joining a group of over 75,000 protected bodies of water and a cohort of over 100 other participating countries worldwide.

“It’s sort of like a mini Earth Day almost, but just curated towards water,” said School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior and Raritan Scholar Quentin Zorn. “It brings the community together and gets us all thinking about how humans, in general, can treat the environment better.” 

The most important thing about volunteering, he said, is being able to join with others to discuss the effects humans have on the environment.

The event took place at Boyd Park in New Brunswick and it featured art created by local artists from the litter found at previous cleanups held by the LRWP. It was attended by a local Girl Scouts troop and an all-boy Lego team.

“Most of the data we gather is from civic science, which is just regular people volunteering,” Zorn said. “So anybody can come help.”

Until just a few years ago, there was nearly no data on the quality of the river, so it is now up to civic scientists to ensure its water is monitored, she said.

In her opening remarks for the event, Fenyk said that there is currently insufficient data on the Raritan River. But, with the continued aid of volunteers, that is all poised to change.

As volunteers chatted over cookies and chips, the water monitoring vanguard — the Girl Scouts troop — was being briefed on the basics of water monitoring and water analysis equipment. The group leader, clad in wader boots, led the charge toward the river with her squad of young scientists.

With testing equipment and sampling kits at the ready, the young civic scientists assisted in testing the river’s water quality and acquiring water samples.

They answered questions as they checked the water’s dissolved oxygen content and its temperature, and they learned how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and the meanings of other units of measurement. 

Another component tested by the volunteers was the Raritan River’s turbidity, or degree of cloudiness due to particulates, which is a key measure of water quality, the group leader said. The civic scientists positioned their heads over a vial of river water and learned that there are bacteria in it from things like dog poop and garbage.

“With our water quality monitoring activities we will put the Raritan River (and) New Brunswick on a map, joining several thousand communities around the world,"  she said.

Justin Merced

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