In 1989, a group of people who love the Shenandoah River came together. Concerned about the river’s degradation and lack of awareness about the river, they had an idea; Combine the forces of science and volunteers to monitor the river’s health, and then share the story of science throughout the Valley. Knowledge, they said, is power. The Friends of the Shenandoah River was born.
As we celebrate our 30th anniversary this year, we take pride in that we are the longest-term continuous citizen-scientist volunteer source for water quality data in the watershed. Our data is utilized by local state and federal agencies, educators, other NGOs, and the public. Our laboratory at Shenandoah University sets the gold standard for testing and analysis. Partners that include Friends of the North Fork, Friends of the Middle River, and the Blue Ridge Watershed Coalition rely on us to make sure the quality of our data is unassailable. Our citizen-scientist volunteers monitor sites from, Stuarts Draft VA., to Harpers Ferry, W.VA, once a month!
Little by little, the river is recovering from the industrial pollution of the last century. Although the threats have changed over time, there is still so much to do. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus from both agriculture and population growth can cause excessive algae growth. When the algae die, the decomposition process steals life sustaining oxygen from the water and can release toxic chemicals that pose a threat to fish, other aquatic organisms, wild and domestic animals, and humans.
During the summer months, people are enjoying recreational activities in rivers and streams. There is the possibility that pathogens that are dangerous to human health are present in these waters. These pathogens come from agricultural practices, overland run-off, dated and failing septic systems, and overwhelmed wastewater treatment facilities. Under the recently passed Virginia Code for both the State Water Control Board and VA Dept. of Health, there is no longer any Virginia State agency responsible to inform the public of potential exposure to elevated E. coli levels in freshwater streams and rivers in Virginia! We, however, do perform this important service.
The Friends of the Shenandoah River monitors 16 public recreational and access points along the river weekly during these months for E. coli, which is an indicator for a host of harmful organisms. We then make real-time posts to social media to alert recreational users of potential danger.
We can’t do this without you. Our wonderful river needs the Friends of the Shenandoah River, and the Friends need you. We need your support to be able to continue to provide you with this critical information when recreating in the Shenandoah River. We need Friends like you, people who want to support our efforts to provide timely, accredited water-quality data that helps to tell the story of the river’s health.
I hope you will join me, along with other Friends of the Shenandoah River, in making a tax-deductible contribution today. Donations can be made using the following link with PayPal: https://fosr.org/join-us/join/
Your friends on the river,
The Friends of the Shenandoah River Board of Directors