On Saturday, August 17, I worked my 6th Secchi Day on Beaver Lake. Secchi Day is an annual community event that involves citizen science volunteers collecting water samples and taking Secchi readings. The event happens the second or third Saturday of August and has been ongoing for 12 years. The goal of Secchi Day on Beaver Lake is to assess the water quality of Beaver Lake, the drinking water source of Northwest Arkansas, during the growing season (summer months) when chlorophyll and algal activity are more common and can affect the aesthetic qualities (taste and odor) of drinking water.
Secchi day monitoring is completed on thirty-five sites across Beaver Lake between 8am-11am on Secchi Day. Sites extend up into the arms of the lake on War Eagle and the West Fork, are also in the main channels, and extend to the dam. Secchi readings on Beaver Lake tend to be the lowest in the upstream part of the lake where the tributaries enter the lake. These waterbodies are moving faster and carrying higher loads of sediment. As the water in Beaver Lake slows down and sediment drops out, Secchi depths improve, with generally the best secchi readings being found near the dam.
For the last five years I have spent Secchi Day at an Ozarks Water Watch education booth, most recently displaying live macroinvertebrates! This year, my role changed and I served as a site launch manager at Hickory Creek. Being a site launch manager meant I was away from Prairie Creek, where most of the public activity happens. But, it also connected me closer to the water quality monitoring side of Secchi Day. My responsibilities included placing signage to direct volunteers, calling volunteers to ensure they were aware of their directions for completing monitoring, and meeting volunteers when they came off the lake to collect their samples and forms before transporting the materials back to Prairie Creek. As a site launch manager, I learned more about the scientific design of Secchi Day monitoring. For instance, I learned that sites receive duplicate monitoring, which helps to minimize human error and ensure the data is correct.
On the morning of Secchi Day, volunteers checked in with me and each team received a bag with all of their materials including a secchi disc, forms, a list of sites with GPS coordinates, and monitoring bottles. Volunteers monitored from all types of boats, including kayaks. Many Secchi Day teams made it a day on the lake with their families and kids in the boat ready for swimming after their monitoring duties were finished. I realized this was a great way for kids to be involved in citizen science and volunteer service. Other volunteers went the extra mile to help pick up trash and debris found along the shoreline.
Once I received all of the samples from the volunteers, I drove them back to Prairie Creek and our data was entered on the “Great Wall of Secchi.” Alongside the great Secchi Wall was a smaller wall that featured some of the data from our Beaver Lake Volunteer Monitoring Program. This was a great way for the public to learn about our monitoring program and to see how our data is being interpreted in our, now, fourth year of volunteer lake monitoring.
Overall, Secchi Day 2017 was a great day of community engagement, volunteer monitoring, and public water quality education! Data from the 2017 Secchi Day on Beaver Lake will be available later this year on the Secchi Day Page at the Beaver Water District website.
Secchi Day 2018 will be on Saturday, August 18, 2018.