Humbled and Amazed

Each September I go to the website for World Water Monitoring Day and marvel at how this event has grown. It began nationwide in 2002, as a celebration of the 30th anniversary of America’s Clean Water Act, and today it involves 120,000 people in 81 countries!

I take credit.

For 14 years I enjoyed my job as an environmental educator in the Water Quality program of the Washington State Dept of Ecology. In later years I concentrated on encouraging volunteer monitoring by citizen groups and classrooms, as a means of instilling a feeling of ownership and stewardship for local waterbodies.

In 2001, a federal environmental agency requested ideas for an inspiring event to celebrate the Clean Water Act – and from my little desk in Olympia, I suggested taking a national snapshot of water quality around the country, by sending volunteers out to monitor their streams, rivers, and lakes, and collecting their data. My concept was that anyone could test the water – consistency of method would be good, but scientific expertise was beside the point. The idea was for many, many people to produce many data-points – and then, hopefully, do it again the next year. The goal was awareness, not valid data.

I retired after the first National Water Monitoring Day in 2002 – I had moved to Seattle and the commute was long and my new boss was difficult. But without me, the concept took off. And now look. Volunteers from all over the world have reported data for 8 years. It’s archived and publicly accessible in a central repository. I’m so proud of my legacy. Go look. It’s amazing.