Using Biology to Measure Environmental Quality in the Tippecanoe River Watershed

Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 4:16pm
Everyone likes clean water. We want our water to be clean so we can swim in it, drink it, and fish in it without worrying about getting sick. We want our lakes to be clear and healthy. But how do we know if the water is clean? Chemical testing is the go-to answer for many people, but there are other ways! 

Chemical testing is valuable for the chemicals we can accurately measure. But an even better way to measure water health is to observe what lives in it. Animals that live in the water are surrounded by it every minute of every day. Some kinds of animals can only survive if the water and its habitat are in good condition. Biological monitoring is very useful for keeping track of water health.
The  Watershed Foundation has been measuring the biological health of rivers and lakes in the watershed upstream from Tippecanoe Lake since 2005. Biologists use an electric current to stun fish. The numbers and kinds of fish present tell us a lot about how healthy the water is.

Have we seen any improvement over the years? Yes. Ten sites in the watershed have been monitored since 2005. The graph below shows a summary of changes in the “biotic index scores” of fish and macroinvertebrate communities over this time period. Almost all the sites have improved as The Watershed Foundation carries out its improvement plan.