The Veins of Life  Watershed Society


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Stormwater Testing By Local Citizens
A Profile on the Gorge Tillicum Community Association

Hidden among the tall grasses and wildflowers, a foot diameter pipe emerges from the side of a bank.  A slow trickle of water flows from the pipe and eventually makes its way to the Colquitz River.  While it escapes notice by many, this pipe, called an outfall, signifies the relationship between our daily actions and the quality of water in our local waterways.

A small group of concerned citizens and their children meet at this site on a bimonthly basis.  Each participant has a role.  One adult opens a kitcontaining an array of bottles and coloured liquids.  A child carefully counts the number of drops of a chemical reagent placed in a test tube while his parents attentively look on.  Others participants scope the surrounding area and take notes about its condition. These individuals are performing standard water quality tests to determine whether the water that flows into their neighbourhood creek is up to par with environmental and health standards. 

These dedicated citizens are members of the Gorge-Tillicum Community Association.  Their interest in water quality issues has led them to the Veins of Life Watershed Society (VOLWS).  VOLWS offers an education program called Adopt-an-Outfall aimed at monitoring the quality of storm water flowing from local outfalls.  The Adopt-an-Outfall program is available to community and school groups and provides an avenue for citizens to partake in watershed stewardship. Raising awareness about our storm drain system and the impact of non point source pollution on water are the main objectives of the program.  Non point source pollution comes from many different sources. For example, urban storm water runoff picks up many pollutants as it flows over our streets into the storm drain.

Currently, there are several groups that deserve recognition for their commitment to the Adopt-an-Outfall program.  Click here to see a Gallery of photos from these programs. The Gorge-Tillicum Community Association (GTCA) began their monitoring in the spring of 2000 and has since grown in numbers.  Led by Anne Genuist, Steve Legg, and Jack Sante, the group represents a diverse mix of people working together as water stewards. They focus their efforts on outfalls located along the Gorge waterway, Colquitz River, and by the Tillicum Mall.  High school students belonging to the Escape Club at Esquimalt Secondary, and the Sea Scouts and Venturers are Adopt-an-Outfall‘s younger participants ranging from 11 to 18 years of age. 

Commitment shy?  On a biweekly or monthly basis, take a stroll along the waterfront or streamside to your appointed outfall. Conduct a quick survey of the area noting any abnormalities, a level reading of temperature, pH, Dissolved Oxygen, Turbidity, and visual and odour observations.  The total monitoring procedure takes about 30 minutes.  If the responsibility is divided among a group of five, it would mean a trip every couple of months.  Your group determines the level of commitment by deciding on the frequency of visits and number of outfalls. 

This is also a great opportunity for teachers to demonstrate to students that perseverance and commitment is what it takes to make a difference.  Too often, we take the initiative for a day to help out with a cause without realizing that the difference is made with a conscious effort on a consistent basis.  Prevention rather than remediation is key here.  As well, students have an opportunity to investigate patterns over a long run, raising questions to differences in results, and exercising their critical thinking skills to graph, chart, and summarize data over time. 

Non point source pollution is a collective problem that requires a collective effort.  Becoming aware how our daily actions affect the quality of water entering the storm drain systems and flowing to our creeks and coastlines is a little change that goes a long way.

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Last Updated: August 2007