While the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most community events in 2020, Silver City Watershed Keepers (SCWK) marked its 10th year by moving forward with programs to promote watershed education and stewardship, water quality monitoring, water conservation, trash removal and climate resilience, all while following COVID-safe practices.
Before the pandemic hit, SCWK assisted students from Guadalupe Montessori School with their Earth Force project about the impact of trash, in particular plastics, in our waterways. The group of nine fourth and fifth grade students walked to downtown Silver City to interview professionals as part of their research. After talking with GRIP’s Allyson Siwik for an overview of the trash problem in the Silver City watershed, they met with county commissioner Alicia Edwards about county ordinances concerning trash in the local waterways and visited Mayor Ken Ladner to learn about the Toss No Mas program. The students ended their day with water quality monitoring in San Vicente Creek. Students helped to collect data at Site 1 as part of SCWK’s first quarter monitoring of 2020.
In late February, SCWK partnered with Snell Middle School in a 2-day water education event that took place in the classroom and in the field. Professional conservation advocates spoke to students about water harvesting, geology and geo-morphological and hydrological events that led to the formation of the Big Ditch, the definition of a watershed, and how environmental water quality monitoring is conducted at the local mines. The following day, 80 middle school students traveled to Silver City for a direct experience in the watershed that included water quality monitoring, native plant identification, a museum display explaining the formation of the Big Ditch, and a presentation about Cut Your Waste Grant County, a program designed to change our consumption habits. There was an emphasis placed on the consumption of plastics and their negative impact on our waterways and ecosystem in general. Students participated in a short meditation designed to emphasize how we are connected to Earth and our environment.
World Water Day was celebrated early in March at the Bayard Public Library where attendees learned about water quality monitoring, the importance of water conservation, and of keeping trash out of the waterways to protect ecosystem health and the safety of our drinking water. The program stressed climate resilience through conserving water to reduce the amount of fossil fuels needed to pump groundwater and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately, the World Water Day event at Big Ditch Park had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, but several small groups of volunteers collected trash in Big Ditch Park and south of the Highway 90 overpass in honor of the annual celebration. Water conservation and education were also a part of the virtual Gila Earth Day event organized by GRIP. In early November, a small group of volunteers in partnership with the Gila National Forest Service gathered to collect glass and shooting debris off Bear Mountain Road.
With the pivot to on-line learning due to COVID, SCWK designed environmental education materials to promote watershed stewardship in the community. Weather journals were created and distributed along with rain gauges to local schools to encourage students to collect precipitation data while at home to learn about weather and climate change. Other environmental education activities have been promoted through social media and on the SCWK website.
SCWK has continued to collect quarterly water quality monitoring data throughout the year in small groups of volunteers. The data will become part of a larger database to track surface water quality and groundwater in the state. In addition to the educational outreach in the community, SCWK is working to release its second State of the Watershed Report featuring much of the work being done by community groups to protect and enhance the quality of our local watershed.
To get involved with the Silver City Watershed Keepers, please contact SCWK coordinator Leigh Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Silver City Watershed Keepers website for more information.