Friends of the Mad River is recruiting volunteers for a newly-imagined version of its Mad River Watch (MRW) water quality monitoring program that will launch this summer across The Valley. Sponsored by Lawson’s Finest Social Impact Program and incorporating lessons learned from decades of volunteer-driven monitoring, the program builds on a foundation of citizen science and community-valued water quality data that have been the hallmark of the last 30 years.
“We have learned that many of our community’s water quality challenges occur when rain washes pollutants from the land and we’ve learned where E. coli and phosphorus levels tend to be high and resolved many problems,” explained Kinny Perot, Friends’ co-founder and board member. “We’ll still track many of these long-term trends, but I’m also excited about new learning and opportunities from the updated Mad River Watch program.”
Volunteers’ data will inform a more complete story about the health and well-being of the Mad River watershed to share with the community, guide the questions Friends of the Mad River (FMR) asks next and contribute to building climate resilience. This summer, volunteers will again spread out across the watershed, this time using in-the-field methods to guide their observations, responding to changing conditions as they arise. “We’ve built MRW 2.0 around the idea that thoughtful observations are the basis for sound scientific inquiry. And, because we value the diverse perspectives this community can contribute, we are inviting anyone’s inner scientist, artist, naturalist or curious river-goer to play an important role,” said Lisa Koitzsch, Friends’ MRW coordinator.
FMR plans to continue sharing information about the state of the watershed with the broader community, though its regular updates in The Valley Reporter will look a little different. “When we say, ‘inviting your inner artist,’ we really mean it. The health of the river is not just about crunching numbers, but about the way we all connect with and celebrate the watershed,” noted Corrie Miller, FMR executive director. “Our hope is to not only share the data collected, but also the stories and artistry that come from our volunteers -- and to inspire all of us to explore our own connections to the land and water around us.”
For decades, MRW has helped drive the conversation around the importance of monitoring and protecting clean water, and the new program will continue that tradition. “Lawson’s Finest is thrilled to partner with Friends of the Mad River,” said Sean Lawson, CEO and founding brewer at Lawson’s Finest Liquids. “A healthy watershed starts with clean water in our streams and rivers, which in turn provides pristine groundwater. We rely on Waitsfield’s town water source on Scrag Mountain to make great beer, making it our most important resource to protect.”
Mad River Watch has helped inform people’s decision-making around when and where it is safest to swim, while also driving conversations about the importance of stewardship at these much-treasured river access points. “Mad River Watch has always been about the good stewardship of our watershed. As land use patterns change, as we see increased impacts from recreation and development, and as the challenges of climate change unfold around us, we wanted to emphasize the positive role each of us can play,” explained Ira Shadis, FMR stewardship manager.
Friends invites the community to learn more about Mad River Watch 2.0 at an online informational session on Thursday, May 27. Registration is required and can be found online at friendsofthemadriver.org/madriverwatch.