Published: April 8, 2010
ALBUQUERQUE/RIO RANCHO – The Mid Rio Grande Stormwater Quality Team (MRGSQT), a multi-agency coalition dedicated to educating individuals and businesses on preventing stormwater pollution in order to protect and improve the quality of the Rio Grande, has partnered with the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) to monitor four sites on the Rio Grande and to provide educational activities on water quality relating to watershed management in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties.
The monitoring sites will be located along the Rio Grande in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties adjacent to existing BEMP sites, according to Daniel Shaw, BEMP Co-Director. He said the sites would probably be at the U.S. 550 Bridge in Bernalillo, the Alameda and Montano Bridges within Albuquerque, and south of the Tijeras Arroyo and north of Isleta Pueblo in Albuquerque. Weekly monitoring will measure levels of the bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli) in the river. Although this bacteria occurs naturally in the Rio Grande , its levels can also be temporarily elevated after a storm if animal wastes are washed into the river. For example, storm sewers in the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho areas can potentially carry
E. coli from rain contact with wastes from domestic animals, wildlife, birds, pets and even humans into the Rio Grande.
“As our area grows, more waste is created. For example, we know that there are at least 43,000 licensed dogs in the City of Albuquerque alone that create more than 20 tons of dog waste a day. That waste can end up in the river if it’s left in a yard or not disposed of properly in household trash containers,” explained Roland Penttila, an MRGSQT member and storm drain design manager for the City of Albuquerque.
Consistent monitoring of the Rio Grande for E. coli will help give the MRGSQT more reliable data on the bacterial pollutants that may be reaching the river through our area’s stormwater system, which contains approximately 16,100 storm inlets leading to 722 miles of storm pipes which lead to the Rio Grande.
Water samples will be collected weekly by a BEMP team trained and supervised by experts at the University of New Mexico. Students from various elementary, middle or high schools will learn hands-on as they participate on the BEMP teams. The BEMP program will provide education on stormwater quality and how it affects the river’s ecosystem to several thousand students in grades K-12.
Vern Hershberger, MRGSQT chair and environmental health manager at the University of New Mexico, believes teaming with BEMP is a “great fit” with the public education and outreach goals the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has for MRGSQT members. “Keep the Rio Grand is the MRGSQT’s motto. We need everyone’s help and a new awareness if we are to succeed in preventing pollution from entering our stormwater system. We’re excited to be working with such a well-established BEMP program. We look forward to the data we’ll receive as well as the opportunity for local students to learn about the importance of stormwater quality,” Hershberger said.
The Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) is a joint project of the University of New Mexico ‘s Biology Department (UNM) and the Black Institute for Environmental Studies at Bosque School . Since 1996, BEMP has collaborated with kindergarten through 12th grade students from across New Mexico and their teachers to track long-term change in the Middle Rio Grande Bosque. BEMP reports are available at www.bosqueschool.org/BEMP .
The Mid Rio Grande Stormwater Quality Team was formed as a multi-agency coalition in 2004 to educate and reach out to residents about how they can reduce stormwater pollution to help “Keep the Rio Grand.” The team includes the Al buquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA), Bernalillo County, the City of Albuquerque, the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA), the University of New Mexico and the New Mexico Department of Transportation. More information about the Mid Rio Grande Stormwater Quality Team is available at www.keeptheriogrande.com .