Training in Arley yields four new AWW trainers

Bill Deutsch and Sergio Ruiz-Cordova traveled to Arley, Alabama to train a group of Alabama Water Watch-certified volunteer monitors to become AWW trainers Saturday, September 12th. The AWW Training of Trainers Workshop was held at the Meek High School in Arley. The AWW Program has been training citizens throughout the state to test the water quality of their local streams, rivers, lakes, bays and bayous since 1993. Bill quickly realized that the exponential growth in volunteer monitors could not be sustained with just a couple of AWW trainers, and developed the Training of Trainer Workshop in 1995. Currently, the AWW Program has about 40 trainers statewide, and AWW-certified volunteer trainers conducted about 2/3rds of trainings within the past year. Since 1993, over 5,000 Alabamian have been certified as AWW water monitors.

Trainees, Larry Barkey (on left) and James Mason (in back) receive training materials from Bill Deutsch

The ranks of AWW trainers gained four new recruits at the Arley training, and two veteran trainers went through the Trainer Refresher Workshop. The workshop participants came from the Black Warrior, Coosa and Tennessee River basins, and represented five AWW monitor groups (listed below). New trainees included: 

  • John Kulbitkas representing Smith Lake Civic Association
  • Larry Barkey representing Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy
  • James Mason representing Huntsville Senior Environment Corps
  • Loretta Weninegar representing Columbia High School, Huntsville, AL

Trainers that got refreshed included:

  • Ray O’Donnell representing RSVP/Marshall County
  • Isabella Trussell representing Logan Martin Lake Protection Association

Bill opened the workshop with an overview of AWW Program trends. He then reviewed the Executive Summary of the 2008 AWW Annual Report, and lead a discussion “Thinking about AWW in the Big Picture”, touching on comparative advantages of AWW monitoring, maintaining quality citizen water data, interpretation of the citizen data, better use of the data, and AWW success stories and local initiatives.

Other topics of discussion included volunteer monitor group dynamics, levels of AWW certification, role of the Alabama Water Watch Association, what is involved in becoming a trainer, planning an AWW workshop, preparing for a workshop, conducting a workshop, and following up after a workshop.

Special thanks to Ms. Susette Rohde, the Meek High School science teacher who assisted with  training logistics and provided delicious home-made treats for the participants! To locate an AWW trainer near you and request a training workshop, go to the AWW website at and click on the Monitor Resources menu, or call the AWW toll-free number at (888) 844-4785. And the next time that you’re out cruising on a beautiful lake, paddling down a picturesque stream, or fishing in a productive bayou, remember to shout out a big “Thank You!” to the selfless volunteer trainers – like John, Larry, James Loretta, Ray and Isabella, and the volunteer monitors who give hundreds of hours of their time to watch over and protect the rich aquatic resources of our State.

Can volunteer water monitors make a difference, a case from Lake Wedowee


(Article as pdf – for printing)

Residents of Lake Wedowee, in Randolph County, became concerned about the health of their lake more than a decade ago, and many members of the Lake Wedowee Property Owners (LWPOA) became certified water monitors under the Alabama Water Watch Program (AWW). Water monitoring began in 1998, and since then the LWPOA has submitted 1,179 water chemistry records and 359 bacteria records to the AWW statewide online database. LWPOA volunteer monitors currently test water quality at 19 sites on the lake and its two primary tributaries, the Big Tallapoosa and Little Tallapoosa rivers (see map below).

LWPOA water monitoring sites on Lake Wedowee and the Big Tallapoosa and Little Tallapoosa rivers in Randolph County. Green dots are active monitoring sites, and red dots are inactive sites (map taken from the AWW website,

Spurred by a growing concern about bacterial contamination of the lake from several possible point and nonpoint sources (including septic systems, waste water treatment facilities, campgrounds, and nonpoint source runoff from poultry and cattle rearing operations), several LWPOA monitors received training and certification in bacteriological monitoring from AWW in March 2006. Charles ‘Sut’ Smith, former LWPOA board member and Coordinator of the Upper Tallapoosa River Basin Clean Water Partnership Committee (UTRBCWPC), and Jack Duncan, LWPOA board member and LWPOA Water Testing Committee Chairman, drafted a bacteriological sampling plan to test for levels of E. coli at 22 sites throughout the Lake Wedowee Watershed (see map below).  The initial phase included bacteria testing on Lake Wedowee proper from the dam forebay back to upper lake boundaries.  The lake water was generally E-coli free and met ADEM’s Water Criteria for Swimming and Other Whole Body Water Contact Sports (Pathogens).

The second phase of E-Coli testing focused on the two rivers and tributary streams feeding Lake Wedowee. This phase was done as a project of the UTCWPC to evaluate non-point source pollution entering the watershed streams. More than 100 samples, in triplicate, were collected and analyzed using the AWW Bacteriological Monitoring protocol throughout the 2006 growing season (April-October).  The following results from obtained from the study:

  • the highest E. coli levels (up to 8,250 colonies/100 mL of water) occurred in the Little Tallapoosa River just upstream of the Alabama-Georgia state line,
  • high levels of E. coli were also measured in Wedowee Creek (up to 2,786 colonies/100 mL of water) and in the Tallapoosa River (up to 506 colonies/100 mL of water), and
  • the sources appeared to be from nonpoint source runoff because high levels of E. coli were detected following rainfall/runoff events.

Map showing sites in the Lake Wedowee Watershed that had harmful levels of E. coli during the 2006 growing season (sites in red had > 600 colonies/100 mL of water, sites in yellow had 200-600 colonies/100 mL, sites in green had < 200 colonies/100mL).

 After completion of this tremendous effort and collection of results showing the bacteriological ‘hotspots’ in the Lake Wedowee Watershed, Sut Smith communicated his findings to ADEM. Missy Middlebrooks, ADEM Senior Environmental Scientist, invited representatives from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD) to a meeting in Wedowee to discuss the citizen findings in November, 2006. At the Upper Tallapoosa River Basin Clean Water Partnership meeting, Sut Smith presented the bacteriological findings of periodic high E. coli concentrations in the Little Tallapoosa to representatives from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD). The extremely high concentrations recorded at the state line inspired the GA EPD to action.

After the meeting, GA EPD, Carroll County, the City of Carrollton and the Rolling Hills RC & D Council initiated action to apply for federal 319(h) funds to address the bacterial contamination problem in the Little Tallapoosa River.  The GA EPD awarded a $900,000 grant in January of this year for a three-year watershed project to clean up the Little Tallapoosa River. The project addresses septic tank repair/replacement/maintenance, strategic installation of on-the-ground agricultural best management practices on impaired stream segments, and follow-up water quality monitoring to verify reductions in fecal coliform concentrations (including E. coli) in the river and its tributaries. Representatives from the Rolling Hills RC & D Council recently returned to Wedowee and gave a presentation on the watershed project, and remarked that one reason for doing this project was the citizen bacterial monitoring conducted by LWPOA, along with coordination with ADEM and the Upper Tallapoosa River Basin Clean Water Partnership.

LWPOA water monitors undergoing periodic recertification in AWW water monitoring techniques on Jack Duncan’s pier.

For details on the LWPOA watershed-level bacteria study and lake water quality monitoring, go online to (click Monitor Resources, then Publications to see the group’s publication titled Citizen Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring of Alabama’s Reservoirs – Lake Wedowee), to (read about LWPOA in a World Wildlife Fund-sponsored publication titled Community-Based Water Quality Monitoring Data Credibility and Applications), and to (click Click here to go to original TWP Project to read about LWPOA side-by-side water monitoring with Auburn University researchers in the TWP Final Report: 2006-2007). Thanks to a good, data-rich nudge from our ever-vigilant AWW water monitors, the waters of Lake Wedowee and the Tallapoosa River are being cleaned up so that we can all safely enjoy them – GREAT JOB LWPOA and UTRBCWP!


Clear Water Alabama seminar

On October 28th and 29th, the Alabama Erosion and Sediment Control Partnership will held the 2009 Clear Water Alabama Field Day in Bessemer, Alabama. The field day will highlight many erosion and sediment control practices and give participants a chance to observe and discuss many on-site practices.  Some of the practices include new sediment basin technology that reduces the suspension of soil particles in water, called turbidity.

Click here to see a brochure and registration info for the 2009 seminar.

To see about the 2008 Field Day click here.

The 15th Annual Secchi Dip-In

“My Lake”: 34 years of volunteer-collected data and no evidence of change…yet.

2008 Update: first Microcystis bloom seen this year. Transparency still 25 feet.

This is an invitation to participate again in this year’s Secchi Dip-In, which starts June 27 and runs thtough July 19. This is the 16th year of the Dip-In, and the three week event in June and July continues to demonstrate that volunteers such as you can collect quality data.

The Dip-In is a network of volunteer programs and volunteers, that, together with all the other Dip-In participants, gathering and providing continent-wide (and world-wide) information.

Because volunteers contribute data year after year, we are able to examine trends in transparenacy over time, but it takes a minimum of 5 years of data in order to begin to see trends. We now have 1,876 waterbodies with 5 or more years of data . Of those waterbodies, 202 exhibit significant levels of transparency change, both positive and negative. Are changes in 11% of North America’s volunteer-monitored waters significant? It might depend on whether it is “your” lake or stream that is changing and in what direction that change is occurring. Wouldn’t it be important to you to know what causes a waterbody to lose transparency or what tends to increase transparency?

We have already evidence that waterbodys having decreasing transparency are sometimes close to ones that may be improving in transparency; there is little evidence of whole regions changing simultaneously. This adds to our knowledge about whether urbanization or disturbance is changing the transparency of our lakes, but also emphasizes our ignorance of mechanisms of change. It emphasizes that yes, more data is necessary on more waterbodies for more years.

If you have missed several years of the Dip-In and would like us to calculate trends on your waterbody, you can enter data for previous years to “catch up” with our database.

We accept data from a wide range of turbidity instruments such as turbidity tubes and turbidimeters. We now have sufficient data to make some rough equivalents between instruments, so sometime in July I’ll be able to post North American transparency maps including all the data normalized to Secchi transparency. We have also been collecting data on temperature and oxygen for several years in order to examine whether they can reinforce our trend data and provide information on whether our continent is warming.

We also encourage the involvement of programs that sample rivers and streams, estuaries, and marine environments. It isn’t just lakes that are changing and need monitoring.

All of the data, including Dip-In 2008, will soon be available on our website. You can retrieve it by state, by county, or by waterbody. This allows you to see how your waterbody is faring relative to neighboring bodies in other programs. If you find errors, please let us know; you know these sites better than we do. If you want all of the information for your program or state, we can provide it as an Excel file or Access database.

For more details, Contact

Bob Carlson

2009 Secchi Dip-In

Biological Sciences, Kent State Univ, Kent, OH 44242

Phone 330.672.3992

FAX 330.672.3713

E-mail Dipin@Kent.Edu

Please visit the Dip-In website at:

Cullman County Water Watcher excites students about local waters

Read about how an Alabama Water Watch volunteer monitor in Cullman County, Bob Keefe, has inspired dozens of students from Wallace State Community College over the past several years to get more in-tune with their local aquatic environment.

NRCS National Newsletter – Alabama Success Story

Local News Article

Wallace State Thank You Letter

Photo Gallery by Connie Briehn, Biology Instructor, Wallace State (be sure to hit the play arrow at the bottom of the first picture to view all 135 photos).

Bob monitors water chemistry and E. coli bacteria at 24 stream sites throughout Cullman County, and has contributed over 1,600 data records over the past eight years to the AWW statewide water quality database (online at – click on the AWW Data menu).

To explore Bob’s stream water chemistry data, CLICK HERE.

To explore Bob’s stream E. coli data, CLICK HERE.

In 2008, Bob received the coveted Monitor of the Year Award for most total records submitted in one year (311 records), the Mike Mullen Award for the most water chemistry records submitted in one year (164 records),  and the Award for the Most Bacteriological Records submitted in one year (147 records).  All of this effort adds up to a great legacy of environmental stewardship that Bob is passing on to the next generation of conservationists – THANK YOU BOB!