FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The 2016 Secchi Dip-In:
22 Years of Volunteers Monitoring Our Waters
From July 1 until July 31, 2016, volunteers participating in the Secchi Dip-In will be collecting transparency data in the United States and Canada. Water transparency is affected by changes in nutrient levels, biological activity, and changes in the temperature structure of the lake. Changes in water transparency may signal changes in land use or the success of efforts to restore waterbodies to better conditions.
The Dip-In is an international effort in which volunteers produce a “snapshot” of the transparency of water in the United States and Canada. Sponsored by the North American Lake Management Society, the Dip-In was created by former Kent State University scientist, Dr. Robert Carlson. The Secchi Dip-In began in 1994 with six Midwest states, but has since expanded to include more than 400 programs and 9,000 volunteers in the U.S., Canada, and several other countries. The Dip-In has generated more than 41,000 water transparency records which can be used to detect trends in water transparency.
Carlson said that he wanted to find a way to produce a scientific “snapshot” of the trends in water quality of the world’s waterbodies. Such a project could only be done using the thousands of volunteers who routinely measure transparency in local volunteer programs. The Dip-In is a chance for volunteers to contribute to a global effort by taking a measurement in their local environment. Although the Dip-In accepts data from all types of turbidity instruments, most volunteers will use an instrument called a “Secchi disk,” a flat, horizontal, black and white disk that is lowered from a rope into the water until it disappears. The depth the disk disappears is a measure of the transparency of the water. The disk itself is named after the Jesuit priest, Pietro Angelo Secchi, who first used the disk more than 150 years ago.
Previous Dip-Ins have provided valuable information about transparency. Transparencies found during the Dip-In range from one inch to more than 65 feet. Waterbodies in the northern parts of the United States and in Canada typically have the clearest lakes, while lakes in agricultural regions of the Midwest have some of the lowest transparencies. Remarkably, most of the lakes that are exhibiting change are also in this northern part of the continent.
The Dip-In has found that the volunteer’s perception of water quality varies considerably from region to region. A person in Minnesota, Maine or Canada, for example, may think that a lake is degraded if the transparency is six feet while in other states, a lake with a transparency of only a foot may be considered beautiful. Carlson suggests that these regional differences mean that people become accustomed to the quality that they see every day. Most sobering may be the possibility that everyone grows up thinking that their environment is normal. Small changes in water quality may go unnoticed. Fortunately, there are volunteer monitors who record these changes in water quality year after year. Without their observations, our environment might change unnoticed.
More information on the Dip-In, including participating programs and results for past Dip-Ins, is available at: www.secchidipin.org.
Director of Membership and Marketing, North American Lake Management Society
p. 608.233.2836 f. 608.233.3186