Corps, students team up to analyze water quality in watersheds

| September 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Dino W. Buchanan
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Honolulu District

Angela Jones (right), park ranger, USACE, assists Washington Middle School students with analysis of nitrate and phosphate levels from a Makiki Stream water sampleFORT SHAFTER — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Honolulu District joined together with Washington Middle School students, Sept. 21, for the first part of Oahu’s annual World Water Monitoring Day activities in the Makiki and Ala Wai watersheds. 

The district teamed up with the City and County of Honolulu Storm Water Quality Branch, Hawaii Water Environment Association and Punahou School Mamiya Science Center to teach almost 120 students how to test materials at the upper section of the Makiki stream. 

Later, students transferred to the lower end of the Makiki Stream, at Magic Island, to test water samples, compile data and compare results from the two bodies of water.

“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 watershed works,” said Mike Wong, Corps civil works department. “For World Water Monitoring Day, we encourage students to learn the basics about the watershed, (and) allow them to test and analyze stream water using holistic methods.” 

Technical experts collected and measured water samples, answered questions about water quality and the city’s storm drain system, and conducted a stream survey and a trail walk. Simple tests conducted included those for dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity (clarity), temperature, phosphates and nitrates.

Angela Jones, park ranger, USACE Pacific Regional Visitor Center at Fort DeRussy, assisted students in testing nitrate and phosphate levels in the water. 

“This event is a great way for students to get a hands-on understanding about the watershed, and I think the students really enjoy testing the water samples and analyzing the scientific data,” Jones said. 

Students uploaded their data to a special section of the World Water Monitoring Day website, which collects worldwide data. Students can view the results of their work online and compare their findings with other students. 

Gail Peiterson, a science teacher at Punahou School, who provided instruction at Makiki Stream on the evolution of the Ala Wai watershed, said she tries to have students equate what they already know about the world they live in, with understanding the watershed sciences. 

“It’s important that students understand the connection between the upstream and downstream watershed,” Peiterson said. “If students have a hard time understanding the concept, I tell them to use examples that they may already know – like cold and hot soda. 

“Cold soda generally has oxygen and generates air bubbles,” she explained. “Fish and plants can live in stream water that has or generates oxygen. Hot soda has no oxygen and obviously hot stream water doesn’t promote life or growth. It’s a simple, yet valid correlation students can relate to.”   

World Water Monitoring Day is an initiative organized by the Water Environment Federation and the International Water Association, which promotes education and personal stewardship regarding water ecosystems and resources. Local schools like Washington Middle School use the event to help satisfy eighth-grade earth science standards. 

Category: Community

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *