Florida Keys Water Watch

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension in Monroe County developed Florida Keys Water Watch, a community-based volunteer water quality monitoring program to promote awareness of the importance of water quality, reduce nonpoint source pollution and involve students and citizens to monitor coastal habitats from manmade canals to bays to beaches. Given the compromised state of the water quality in the manmade canals, nearshore waters and offshore reefs, it is important to inform the community and encourage responsible environmental stewardship and adopt best management practices to reduce pollutants entering waterways.

Florida Keys Water Watch trains teachers, students and citizens from diverse groups to become citizen scientists and collect chemical data to assess coastal habitat health. These methods have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and volunteer data is collected using quality assurance/ quality control (QA/QC) protocols. Florida Keys Water Watch is modelled upon the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program, created in 1992 (georgiaadoptastream.org).

The goals of Florida Keys Water Watch are to:

  • A: Raise awareness of the importance of water quality in the Florida Keys
  • D: Collect baseline data to track coastal health over time
  • A: Adopt best management practices to prevent nonpoint source pollution
  • P: Create community partnerships between citizens and local agencies
  • T: Provide tools and training for educators, students and citizens to evaluate local waterways and become environmental stewards

Florida Keys Water Watch emphasizes connections between statewide land uses and impacts on water quality while providing training and water quality chemical monitoring equipment. The A.D.A.P.T. goals are implemented when volunteers attend a 4-hour workshop, where they are trained to perform monthly chemical testing at a site of their choice for dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, temperature, and turbidity.

To become QA/QC certified, all volunteers must demonstrate their ability to use the chemical kits and equipment and pass a written test with ≥80%. These data are entered into a regional water quality database maintained by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division (GA-DNR EPD) to record baseline values and assess coastal water trends over time. Trained volunteers use a “Who to Call” list to notify the proper authorities if they identify a problem (e.g., fish kill, oil spill). Annual recertification is required to continue with the program, your local coordinator will conduct a site visit and replace your chemical reagents.

For more information, please contact Shelly Krueger at 305-292-4502 or shellykrueger@ufl.edu.

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