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Volunteering For The Planet

Hundreds of volunteer organizations monitor water quality across North America, from the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border to the Mackenzie River in northern Canada. Their members are constantly checking up on the health of streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, coastal waters, wetlands, and wells; they report their findings to government agencies.

Volunteering for such organizations is a good way to get practical experience in environmental care and to learn the basics of water management. Monitoring water resources has united sport fishers, hunters, hikers, bikers, campers, and environmentalists.

Volunteers first note the condition of the area around the body of water they are monitoring. What is the land used for? Is there any protection from flooding? They list the living creatures in and around the water. Then they measure the physical and chemical characteristics of the water: temperature, clarity or cloudiness, rate of flow, amount of oxygen in the water, and the presence of other chemicals. Is there a strange smell? A peculiar color? Before they leave the scene, volunteers also clean it up.

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