What do you monitor?
We monitor for turbidity in the Russian River that is caused by excess suspended fine sediments coming off bare soil during rain events. The high number of vineyards in our watershed are the main culprit of this sediment pollution, (but since the Tubbs Fire burned through in October 2017 we are seeing a lot of sediment moving off bare soil on burned up lots and on construction sites for replacement homes on burned lots.) Many vineyards spray herbicides between the grape plants to kill weeds, and the land is just bare soil. When it rains, this bare soil gets mobilized into the creeks and eventually the river.
We monitor for phosphorus and nitrogen coming off dairy farms in the form of cow waste, and from the vineyards as excess fertilizers into our watershed during rain events.
Why do you monitor?
We monitor turbidity because we are concerned for the health of aquatic organisms. When the fine sediment settles to the bottom of the creeks and the river, it covers the nice gravel beds that would otherwise be there in a natural system. Tiny aquatic invertebrates rely on gravel to find shelter and food, and they can’t thrive in the mud that is left behind. These “macroinvertebrates” are the source of food for our three species of salmonid fishes and other larger animals.
We monitor for phosphorus and nitrogen because these excess nutrients cause excess algae growth in the creeks and the river. As the heat of summer warms up the water temperature, it can cause water conditions to suffer, and toxic algae to flourish.