Southcentral Oklahoma residents who want to learn about protecting local streams and rivers are invited to attend “Blue Thumb Training for New Volunteers” at the Stephens County Conservation District office.  The training is free and will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. May 13 and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.   

Sponsored locally by the Stephens County Conservation District, the training covers watersheds, stream ecology, pollutants, water conservation, field collections, and water testing. The program gets a variety of people at the trainings including 4-H leaders, science teachers, home schoolers, retired people and those just interested in learning more about stream protection. Currently there is a great deal of interest in the Waurika Lake watershed, so gaining additional data on streams that feed the lake is very important.

“New program efforts through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Stephens County Conservation District mean less sediment and other pollutants are reaching the lake, but this important water source is still in recovery mode after several years of drought,” said Cheryl Cheadle, Blue Thumb coordinator. “The time for local people to come aboard for the good of their drinking water source is now.” 

Monitoring volunteers are supported by the state’s Blue Thumb water quality education program. As part of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s Water Quality Division, Blue Thumb’s goal is “stream protection through education.” 

“We have volunteers all over the state of Oklahoma learning about individual streams through monitoring. These volunteers also educate local citizens about pollution reduction and sustainable land use,” said Cheadle.

People who complete the Blue Thumb training are loaned a test kit so long as they perform monthly monitoring on a site and report the data results. Seasonal biological collections also take place. People from outside the Duncan and Waurika areas have the option to monitor a stream closer to home.

“The best way to know something about a stream is by looking at water chemistry, the life in the stream, and also at stream habitat. Blue Thumb helps citizen scientists to do this,” Cheadle said.

Those who need more information or who want to sign up can contact Cheadle at 918-398-1804 or by email at cheryl.cheadle@conservation.ok.gov.