The Creek Watch Program monitors a number of parameters at the stream each month, detailing observations of the stream channel, banks, and surrounding habitat. Some Creek Watch teams additionally carry out in-stream water quality testing with chemistry kits.
Below are lists delineating what it is the Creek Watch team evaluates each month, and what you can hope to find in their data.
Decreased water clarity can indicate sediment or particles entering into the stream from run off or erosion, a frequent problem in the Wissahickon Watershed. Suspended particles or sediment in the water can diminish water quality for stream organisms, and can deflect sunlight from reaching aquatic plants. It can also raise the temperature of the stream, absorbing sunlight.
Surface coatings can be from a natural process or may indicate a problem in the stream. Creek Watchers report incidences of bubbles, oily coatings, or surface scum at their stream site.
The odor of the stream can indicate natural ecological conditions or a problem in the stream. Creek Watchers report incidences of sewage, sulfur, chemical, or gas/petroleum odors at their stream sites.
The streambed color can indicate biological or chemical functions at the site.
Shade helps to keep the temperature of the stream low and slow the growth of algae, important for the survival of aquatic animals. Canopy cover also supplies the stream with leaf litter in the fall, an important source of food and habitat for the aquatic system.
Some algae growth is important to maintaining a stable ecosystem. However, over abundance of algae can reduce dissolved oxygen concentrations for aquatic animals and decrease their survival. The Wissahickon Creek can have major algae problems due to nutrient runoff from animal waste, fertilizers, etc.
Stream flow varies with the seasons and storm events. Groundwater inputs to the Wissahickon Creek are fairly minimal, so much of the flow in the creek is from wastewater treatment facilities and from stormwater runoff. The amount of water in the stream can influence temperature, dissolved oxygen, and many other parameters.
Leaf packs are important for some aquatic insects, known as shredders. Shedders are absent from the Wissahickon Creek and the WVWA suspects this is due to a missing food source. When there is more canopy cover, more leaf litter finds its way into the stream.
Aquatic vegetation is vegetation growing in the streambed. The WVWA has not seen very much aquatic vegetation in the watershed and is interested in cataloguing any aquatic vegetation observed by Creek Watchers.
Erosion is a known impairment in the Wissahickon and is a large concern for the WVWA. Erosion occurs when large amounts of water weather and carve out a stream bank, carrying soil, rocks and debris downstream. Erosion can create unstable bank conditions and can bring down riparian trees. The sediment carried away from eroding stream banks eventually settles on the streambed surface, sometimes creating an island or point bar. This sediment seals in and flattens out valuable habitat in the rocks and crevices of the streambed.
A riparian corridor is the land the boarders the creek (zone of land between the water and 50 feet into the land). Stable riparian vegetation can reduce impacts from stormwater in an urban/suburban landscape by slowing down high velocity stormwater, filtering out pollutants, and providing shade and habitat to the stream corridor.
The WVWA is interested in the animals that are using the stream and stream bank habitat. Creek Watchers report their observations of mammals, birds, insects, plants, etc. at the stream on a monthly basis.