GRIP Citizens’ Watershed Monitoring Group to Form

Volunteers needed to track environmental quality of Silver City’s watershed
By Regina Willis, VISTA Staffer

As part of its VISTA project to clean up legacy mine sites in the Silver City Watershed, GRIP is very excited to announce plans to organize a citizens’ environmental monitoring group for the Silver City watershed. The project will kick off in July and we’re looking for volunteers ready to get involved.

Current environmental monitoring in Silver City — such as surface water quality testing — is performed by government agencies. However, due to staff and budget constraints, designated sites typically are monitored every couple of years. But if trained local volunteers were able to monitor the area several times per year, critical information and knowledge would increase dramatically.

A citizens’ watershed monitoring group will increase the number of residents involved in tracking the environmental quality of our watershed and build community awareness and capacity important for stewarding our water resources.

In collaboration with our partners— the New Mexico Environment Department, Town of Silver City and Grant County Trails Group — GRIP will train volunteers to detect such potential environmental problems as surface water contamination, severe stream bank erosion, trail deterioration, and other environmental concerns within Silver City’s watershed.

At present, New Mexico has only has two programs listed in the National Directory of Volunteer Monitoring Programs, neither based in the southwestern region. Besides mobilizing volunteers in our own community to participate in these efforts, we hope to be a resource and inspiration for neighboring areas to start similar initiatives.

Through this project, Silver City will be joining hundreds of other communities whose concerned residents volunteer their time to observe and record local environmental conditions. These volunteers come in all ages and skill levels, and the information they collect is invaluable to their communities. Data collected from these groups have effectively indentified the unique environmental issues effecting hundreds of watersheds nationwide.

Key environmental concerns specific to the Silver City watershed include:

• Soil and Water Contamination from Historic Mining Sites – In many old mining areas, the historic mining operations have left a legacy of environmental degradation, including contaminated soil and water.

• Trail Erosion – Aside from degrading trails themselves, eroded soil from trails causes local water ways to suffer from sediment loading.

• Severe Stream Bank Erosion – This also contributes to sediment loading in the stream, and causes the loss of property.

• Non-Point Source Pollution – Pollutants from diffuse sources, such as impervious surfaces like roadways and parking lots, are hardest to identify and develop effective controls.

• Invasive Species – Exotic plants and animals displace native species and disrupt natural ecological systems

An initial organizational meeting Silver City watershed for the Silver City Watershed citizens’ monitoring group will be held from 6 to 7 pm, July 29, at the Silver City Public Library. For information, contact Regina Willis at the GRIP office at 538-8078 or email regina@gilaresources.info.

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Gila Resources Information Project

305A North Cooper Street
Silver City, NM 88061

phone/fax 575.538.8078
email: grip at gilaresources.info

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