Professor Tynan’s Water Scarcity First Year Seminar Field Trip

Event information: Professor Tynan’s First Year Seminar field trip, September 28, South Middleton Park, Boiling Springs, PA

ALLARM was invited to help facilitate a Dickinson first year seminar field trip on water quality with Professor of Economics Nicola Tynan. The central focus in her seminar this semester is water scarcity. We were set to meet the group of first year students at South Middleton Park, where the Yellow Breeches generally flows peacefully through the green fields. Upon arriving at the stream, however, we found that the recent extreme rain events in Carlisle had caught up with the stream and the water had flooded well beyond the banks. New wetland areas had formed throughout the low lying, oversaturated grasses of the park and the water in the stream was exceptionally high and fast moving. As a point of reference, we observed that the water was rushing only one or two meters below the bottom of the park’s bridge, while it is usually very shallow and placid.

Given the high water levels, upon the class’s arrival, we decided to focus on chemical and visual water quality monitoring methods, instead of macroinvertebrate collection, to give the first years a taste of the data our volunteer monitors gather. First, I gave a short presentation on stormwater and how it had affected the park landscape, as well as how it interacts with residential lawns and gardens. I used a hands-on activity to demonstrate to the students the differences between pervious (absorbent) and impervious (nonabsorbent) surfaces, and how they might affect water quality as stormwater moves through the watershed. This then led to the water collection and observation process at the bridge were students were able to view in real time the effects of stormwater on the Yellow Breeches. This experience provided an image of the other side of water scarcity; while some regions of the Earth become drier, others become much wetter and more susceptible to decreases in water quality from stormwater runoff and standing water. This was especially clear when students measured the turbidity, or clarity, of the water and saw how brown and muddy the stream had become from runoff.

Finally, we broke out our streamside chemical kits and walked students through procedures that ALLARM volunteer monitors commonly practice. The students were enthusiastic about the data and the protocols for the different parameters. All in all, the day was a great success and we were able to overcome the limitations of high waters and turn them into a lesson on stormwater and the importance of water quality monitoring.

Students “raining” water onto pervious and impervious surfaces in order to understand stormwater-landscape interactions.