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World Water Monitoring Day

By Beth Van Fleet
Department Head, Ecology

World Water Monitoring Day

World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD) started nationally in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of Congress passing the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972—better known as the Clean Water Act. WWMD went global the next year, becoming an opportunity for world citizens to discover our shared watershed, Earth. Participating in this event can be a great learning experience for your students. Although WWMD is officially observed on September 18 (originally October 18), you and your students can collect watershed-site-observations data locally and report it to the WWMD database anytime between March 22 and December 31 this year.

The World Water Monitoring Organization collects water and air temperature, turbidity (clarity), dissolved oxygen (DO), and pH (acidity) data. Use instrumentation or kits to obtain these measurements, whichever you feel appropriate for your class.

Choosing a site

  • Secure permission to be on the land. Choosing a public place like a state or national forest or a park often makes this easier than private property, but be sure to get prior approval wherever you intend to sample. Depending on the location, you may even want the consent in writing. When using public land, officials may be helpful in pointing you to areas suitable for sampling.
  • Hike the site well before the date of the planned trip.
  • Locate and make note to avoid briars, poisonous plants, and other dangers or obstacles along the way.
  • Pinpoint an easily accessible sampling site, such as a beach or shallow bank. High, unstable banks can be a disaster waiting to happen.
  • Avoid any site adjacent to swiftly moving water. Still, be prepared for the possibility that a student may fall in during the outing—even shallow, slow-moving water can be dangerous.

In the classroom

  • Understand exactly how your meters or test kits work in order to ensure quality data collection.
  • Outline the planned student activities and your expectations of the students.
  • Assign your students research projects about the water body they are studying. Where did the water come from? Where is it going? Who uses it and for what purposes?
  • Have each of your students make a field notebook for recording their observations and data.
  • Familiarize the students with the tests or equipment they will be using in the field.
  • Form groups of 4–5 students and ask them to choose who will be in charge of each test.
  • Provide every group with a checklist and use it for ensuring that tests are complete.


  • Listen to the weather report. Avoid sampling in the rain when banks can be slippery and electrical storms frightening and dangerous.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Sturdy shoes, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and hats are a good start, and dressing in layers for outdoor activities facilitates weather changes. Consider, too, there is a possibility of getting wet and/or dirty, and the stains may be permanent.
  • Carry a cell phone and a first aid kit in case of emergencies.
  • Identify group members who can swim and make sure that at least 1 adult swimmer is present on the trip.
  • Monitor students in groups of 2 or more so that no one gets lost.
  • Watch for animals, snakes, and stinging/biting insects. Remember, this is their home; give them lots of room. Also, be especially aware of ticks and chiggers. Light-colored clothing will make it easier to spot them.
  • Distribute nitrile gloves for water samplers to use, and provide anti-bacterial soap or hand sanitizer for thorough hand washing after sampling.
  • Never drink the water at your monitoring site—no matter how clean it looks.

In the field

  • Tour the area with your students. Give them boundaries but let them explore.
  • Instruct students to record observations in their field notebooks. Ask them to describe the area around the water, as well as the water itself. If your students are more suited to using pictures instead of words, have them sketch their assignments.
  • Help groups as they collect data and facilitate sharing of equipment, if necessary.
  • Review each group’s checklist and ensure that all measurements are complete.
  • Remove nitrile gloves, testing materials, wrappers, and any other trash from the area while encouraging students to practice the motto, “leave it better than you found it.”
  • Supervise hand washing after students finish their tasks.
Back in the classroom
  • Allow sufficient class time for your students to calculate measurement averages.
  • Log on to www.wwmd.org and report their results.
  • Plan to do it all again next year.

Visit www.wwmd.org for more information or help arranging your sampling event. With proper planning, a field excursion can help students better understand their watershed and, of course, have lots of fun.