AUSTIN (KXAN) — With a week of triple-digit heat ahead, it’s no surprise why our rivers and lakes are such an appealing attraction in Central Texas.
But keeping up with the water quality of our favorite swimming holes is just as crucial in keeping us safe. That’s exactly what a local group of high schoolers have dedicated their days in researching.
Austin Youth River Watch is a local nonprofit organization that gives underserved high schoolers hands-on experience in environmental science, all year round.
Either after school or throughout the summer break, students are picked up from a selected high school. Throughout their visits, students collect and analyze water quality data from 27 sites along Austin area rivers, creeks and streams, making sure the water is safe to enjoy.
“They get to kind of learn about the environment in like a non-formal, sit in the classroom, type of way and do more hands-on science,” says Beth Bennett, program coordinator of the Austin Youth River Watch.
All data is then passed along to the LCRA and the city of Austin for their monitoring and water reports.
Since it’s uploaded directly to the Lower Colorado Watch Network, anyone can access the data through the LCRA. In the process, the students apply their knowledge in various sciences towards real-life applications.
“It’s giving back to the community, definitely,” says Marissa Luna, a high school graduate and “River Watcher.” Luna continues to say, “But it’s also learning how to take care of your environment the right way, and that’s really important.”
These experiments have proven to make quite an impact.
Over half the students who participate in the program actually pursue a STEM-related career path. In addition to testing water quality, the group also helps out with various restoration projects, which improves watershed health.
If you’d like to learn more about the Austin Youth River Watch program, visit them here.