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Healthy Rivers

Establishing a Baseline

Deciding what tests to tackle

The Maori view of rivers reflects the dynamic vitality, the essential importance of fresh water. Looking after rivers is in everyone's interest, and the activities involved in being kind to rivers are healthy, educational, and uplifting.

Seakeepers offers these resources on River Keeping (River Care, Stream Watching, Adopting a River) to schools and communities so they can get with the programme and spend some enjoyable days in the company of New Zealand rivers, streams, estuaries, and wetlands.

At the heart of a River Keeping project is the nucleus of people who organise and maintain the community surveying programme. Motivation is critical here, and must stem from a very basic understanding:

Rivers are a part of our extended being. Fresh water flows through us, the landscape, and all creatures in the air, on the earth, and in the water. Water is the medium of life. When it is fouled, so are the relationships between all creatures within its domain.

Establishing a Baseline

You will all have heard older people say such things as :

"I remember the days when:

----- there were many more fish around

----- you could always catch a large snapper

----- we used to net white bait by the bucketful

----- the summers were always cooler

----- the rivers were much cleaner."

Often little notice is taken of the claims because there is no hard evidence - or data.

Starting a BASELINE study is therefore extremely valuable because it is a disciplined way of recording hard information (or real facts) against which future changes can be measured.

If in the future you want to present a submission about the state of the water in your local river to the local council, a commercial business, or the local dairy farmers cooperative, making a claim that their activities were spoiling the river, you will then have hard facts to back up your claim.

If you found that water quality had improved as a result of action that your school or community group had taken, you would be able to prove that too. You good result could them be used to encourage other groups, seek support for further projects, expand your existing programme.

Setting up and keeping a baseline involves being well organised and keeping good records of the information that you collect.

Ideally the records should be kept on computer spreadsheets or data bases.

Always keep a back-up file of your data base in case the master file becomes accidentally deleted or altered when students are working with it or adding new information to it.

Keeping a database makes teaching easy! It is the discipline and the basis of the organisation behind a full teaching programme that can be run each year.

However it is not just a repetition of the previous year's exercise. Some information collection methods might need to be modified as a result identifying long term changes. Some new information may need collecting. Your programme will need to have a solid base but have the flexibility to be dynamic.

What Tests and Topics to Tackle

Water quality and the health of a stream can be studied by classes of any age. The basics of the various topics involved, set out below give the overall picture but investigating all of the topics may not be appropriate for all ages or abilities.

It is most important only to tackle the parts that you and your class can do easily and safely. Every exercise you tackle should be interesting and or fun.

Even the youngest can ** observe ** make comments and word descriptions ** paint pictures of what they saw ** smell the water, ** net and filter creatures from it ** keep a list of birds that they saw ** collect pond weeds for class aquarium.

These exercises raise awareness of the natural world around them, engender sympathy for freshwater life and a clean environment and form the basis for more advanced studies when they are older.

So what is involved with the survey?


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