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So, What’s In Your Water?

The “World Water Monitoring Challenge” gave us some clues about the health of Permanente Creek at Heritage Oaks Park in Los Altos.

A group of instructors from Grassroots Ecology led an outdoor class and workshop March 11 in the science of creek water. Linda Ziff, water program lead for GreenTown, partnered with Grassroots to host this event.

Jeremy Merckling, Joanne McFarlin and Linda Ziff with an Enviroscape model that demonstrates how pollution gets into creeks


About 20 students of all ages learned that clean creek water is essential to a healthy environment.

They observed the water in the creek, counted the bugs and found out that the bug count is low because the recent heavy rain and rapid water flows have washed them away. Bugs are adaptable though and they will be back.

The types of bugs in the water helps to tell us if a creek is healthy because some bugs cannot survive in a polluted environment.

Joanne McFarlin describing the bugs in the creek.


The students looked at the turbidity, and the water is now clear after being very murky last month. They measured the pH, and it is neutral, a good thing. They

measured the dissolved oxygen, important for the bugs and fish that live in the water, and it is good. Finally, the temperature of the water was cold, as it should be in late winter.

Jeremy Merckling explaining the role of plants in a healthy watershed


We all left with a better understanding of factors that determine the health of a creek and the state of this local creek. The kids enjoyed being near the water, learning new things, and they gained a deeper appreciation of nature.

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P.O. Box 539, Los Altos, CA. 94023-0539