Understanding Water Quality:
Wild Water Wisdom Workshop
Summary: Description, preparation, what to bring, etc. for Understanding Water workshop on San Jose Creek June 11th 2003, 9am-5pm and June 13th 8 am-1pm.
Workshop has already happened, but there's a lot of great reading on this page...
Come together and lets see what a short, beautiful stretch of San Jose Creek has to tell us about how natural waters change as they cycle through nature, and how we're meant to fit into this.
The way to understand water is to kneel at the feet of the master.
The master can be found at work everywhere outside your door, especially at the nearest, nicest, natural waters.
Immerse yourself in these consciously, fully, and regularly and an understanding of what water has to tell you will soak in.
As much of the following as we can fit in.
- The water cycle, with particular focus on how water quality changes as it touches the earth from the sky and then moves over and through it.
- What purifies water and how
- What contaminates water and how
- Tolerances for different kinds of contamination in the water
- Some discussion of how water quality changes as it moves through engineered systems
- Sharpening your water intuition
- how to find and recognize which water is best for drinking, washing dishes, swimming, washing clothes.
- How to bathe, wash dishes, wash clothes, urinate and defecate in the wilderness in a way which enhances plant growth rather than degrading water quality
- The limitations of testing
- What testing is good for and how to get the most out of it
- Testing techniques for general and fecal coliform bacteria
- What 40 coliforms per 100ml means and how to convert this into quantities of actual fecal matter in the water
- Estimating contamination which could result from a given source
- Estimating what source could have produced a measured level of contamination
- Well each collect a few samples, learning good technique for test design, predicting results, sample collection, pipetting, plating, incubating, counting, recording and interpreting results.
- For this class well use coliscan easy gel plates, with 5ml samples and Hach presence/absence tests with MUG for 100ml samples. Other techniques will be discussed.
- Measuring turbidity visually and with a Hach handheld turbidimeter.
- The importance and implications of turbidity will be discussed.
- Time permitting, and if I finally break down and buy one, well measure hardness with a handheld electrical conductivity probe.
- Taste & feel
- Well drink and swim in different waters, and discuss what can be learned by ingestion and immersion.
- How to drink without contaminating the source.
- Discussion of human parasites and how to test for them in water and in humans
If we can manage it we'll take advantage of our presence on the creek doing samples to produce as complete as possible a profile of the 15-40 waters we sample, including for each water:
- Your objective and subjective narrative description of the water
- Why you are testing at that exact place and time and what you expect to learn from the test
- A high resolution digital image of the sample location and surrounds
- Your guess as to the amount of general and fecal coliforms
- The water temperature
- The turbidity
- The hardness level
- Sample info: code, date, time, quantity plated, etc.
- A high resolution digital image of the ripe plate
- The results of the general and fecal coliform counts
- Discussion of the implication of these results
(there is a early, primitive version of such a profile at Water test results- Maruata)
- Brainstorm how to share this information with different types of people
- How it could add to WYP
- What specifically to do, if anything, at Live Oak.
By invitation to Wilderness Youth Project staff and key volunteers. If you would like to invite someone outside this group, please check. Please RSVP to Mark so we can ensure an adequate amount of water testing supplies. There is space for 10-18 people total.
$100 individual, $200 institutional, or trade for WYP programs.
When & Where
NowStuff to read beforehand
We'll approach the topic from a wide range of perspectives: hydrologist, microbiologist, plant physiologist, chemist, backpacker, and wild nature spirit. If you can track across this whole spectrum you'll get the most out of it.
The more of the background info below you understand (or even have been exposed to) before coming the more you'll get out of it. You could spend as little as an hour just opening every document and glancing at it or as much as a week reading everything through and thoroughly understanding it.
- Water quality testing (download)
- Wild Water Wisdom (article): Staying Clean Ecologically in the Wilderness
- Fecal coliform measurements
- Sewers & water quality
- Nature & balance gallery Pix of rocks balanced by some of the nicest waters on the planet
This stuff will add more depth if you can scan or read any of it:
- Principles of Ecological Design (article): Integrating Technology, Economics and Nature
- Water Centralany links which catch your eye.
- Indigenous community Example of ecologically harmonious human directed water flows
- Water test results- Maruata Water test results from indigenous community
- Excel spreadsheet of results above
- Eco village house Example of ecologically harmonious human directed water flows.
- Excel spreadsheet of results above
Lamblia and Giardiasis Excerpts:
The disease has been referred to as beaver fever because of a presumed link to those water-dwelling animals known to be carriers. However, it has been suggested that it is more likely that humans have carried the parasite into the wilderness and that beavers may actually be the victims. In particular, there is a growing amount of data showing that beavers living downstream from campgrounds have a high Giardia infection rate compared with a near-zero rate for beavers living in more remote areas.
In any case, beavers can and do contract giardiasis. Being water-dwellers, they are thus able to contaminate water more directly than an animal that defecates on the ground.
Other animals that can harbor Giardia are bighorn sheep, cats, cattle, coyotes, deer, dogs, elk, muskrats, pet rabbits, raccoons, and squirrels. But not horses and domestic sheep. And naturally occurring infections have not been found in most wild animals including badgers, bears, bobcats, ferrets, lynxes, marmots, moose, porcupines, rabbits, and skunks.
How many cysts does it take to get the disease? Theoretically only one, but volunteer studies have shown that 10 or so are required to have a reasonable probability of contracting giardiasis: About one-third of persons ingesting 10 25 cysts get detectable cysts in their stools.
However, most infected individuals have no symptoms at all! In one incident studied by the CDC, disruption in a major citys water disinfection system allowed the entire population to consume water heavily contaminated with Giardia. Yet only 11 percent of the exposed population developed symptoms even though 46 percent had organisms in their stools. These figures suggest that (a) even when ingesting large amounts of the parasite, the chance of contracting giardiasis is less than 1 in 2, and (b) if you are one of the unlucky ones to contract it, the chance of having symptoms is less than 1 in 4. But perhaps the most telling statistic is that drinking heavily contaminated water resulted in symptoms of giardiasis in only 1 case in 9.
Recall that San Francisco water can contain a concentration of 0.12 cysts per liter , a figure now seen to be higher than that measured anywhere in the Sierra. San Francisco city officials go to great lengths to assure their citizens that the water is safe to drink, and if trueas it most assuredly must bethis comparison alone is quite revealing.
Saving forests best way to cheap, clean water Excerpt:
From Reuters on CNN, Wednesday, September 3, 2003
GENEVA (Reuters) -- Major cities should focus efforts and funds on conserving forests which naturally purify their drinking water, saving them from spending billions of dollars on water treatment facilities, a study published this week showed.
The study of 105 big cities by the World Bank and the ecology organization the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-International) showed that one-third of them, including New York, Tokyo, Barcelona and Melbourne, get much of their water via protected forests.
Preserving these forests -- which reduce landslides, erosion and sediment; improve water purity by filtering pollutants, and in some cases capture and store water -- is a cost-effective way to provide clean drinking water, the study "Running Pure" said.
"For many cities, time is running out. Protecting forests around water catchment areas is no longer a luxury but a necessity," said David Cassells, senior environmental specialist for forest resources with the World Bank.
"When they are gone, the costs of providing clean and safe drinking water to urban areas will increase dramatically." (...more)
Wednesday June 11th 9:00 am-5:00 pm Workshop
- All meet at Art's house, spend day at creek and Art's food jungle.
- A volunteer photographer needed to take shots of each sample location, with a high resolution digital camera, USB cable and software CD (to download to my computer).
- Photographer tracker needed to record which photo goes with which sample
- Volunteer(s) needed to key in handwritten sample collection info afterwards (call Mark)
- Paper, pencil and a clipboard.
- Bring delicious food for potluck picnic at the creek.
- Sun protection, cold breeze protection, plenty of water, bathing suit in case there's someone who minds.
- Optional: Mask, snorkel, mercury free thermometers.
- Prepare yourself to sit on a rock and listen for a few hours at a stretch, as well as scramble over boulders and through water.
Friday June 13th 8:00 am -1 PM Workshop
Meet at Art's and count the general and fecal coliform test plates from Wednesday, take digital photos, enter and collate data from sample collection, enter in spreadsheet, analyze and discuss, brainstorm ways to share this info.
Questions? Comments? Volunteer? Call Mark or Art
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