South Branch Tunkhannock Creek Watershed Coalition
The South Branch Tunkhannock Creek Watershed Coalition is a citizens' group formed in 2003 under the auspices of Countryside Conservancy to foster shared responsibility for the environment of the South Branch portion of the Tunkhannock Creek Watershed. The Coalition is a grassroots organization committed to maintaining the health of the Tunkhannock Creek watershed through raising community awareness and water quality monitoring.
The 100-square mile South Branch sub-watershed, lying in northwest Lackawanna County and northeast Wyoming County, is the fastest- developing part of the Tunkhannock Creek Watershed. Sprawling new development and inadequately managed stormwater runoff are putting pressure on our historically clean and green waterways.
Since 2004, Coalition volunteers have conducted monthly monitoring of water quality at several sites along the South Branch. We monitor the following items:
Water temperature - cooler temperatures are needed by trout and many other stream species.
pH - the acidity of the water. Lower levels are more acidic (like vinegar), higher ones are more basic (like lye). Most fish species need mid-range values to thrive, and trout are among the more sensitive species. Levels measured ranged from around 7 (the middle of the pH spectrum) to as basic as 8.4. Brook trout can survive in ranges from 5 to 9.5, but prefer 6.5-7.5. A range of 6.5 to 8 is good for many stream invertebrates.
Dissolved oxygen (DO) - essential to stream life. Low DO levels may indicate high levels of nutrients (such as sewage or agricultural runoff) in the creek. Many fish, including trout, need high levels of DO to thrive. Levels are usually lowest in August and highest in December, because cold water can hold more oxygen in suspension than warm water.
Conductivity - the ability of the water to pass an electrical current. It is linked to suspended solids in the water. High levels can make it hard for fish to breathe, and can also raise water temperatures by absorbing sunlight. It's normal for conductivity to increase in warmer temperatures.
Nitrates and orthophosphates - nutrients associated with human and animal wastes and farm and yard fertilizers. They feed plant and algae growth, which in turn uses up dissolved oxygen and raises water temperatures, with potentially disastrous results for trout and other sensitive stream fauna if nutrient levels get too high.
Alkalinity - a measure of the water's ability to neutralize acids. The higher the alkalinity levels, the more acid-neutralizing capacity the water has. This is important for aquatic ecosystems because it protects against changes in pH that can harm aquatic life.
Since 2005, volunteers have conducted semi-annual monitoring of macroinvertebrate fauna (such as caddisfly, stonefly and mayfly larvae) at one stream site. Monitoring shows that our stream water quality is generally good and supports a diverse and abundant stream fauna.
However, a quick drive around the watershed shows that floodplains, stream banks and channels are under pressure from increasingly violent runoff events. The Coalition encourages local landowners and elected officials to focus on more careful management of our precious local waterways.