Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) is a water sampling program carried out by trained volunteers, with analyses and reporting by the UNC-Asheville Environmental Quality Institute, supported by an annual academic grant from LJEA. To date, we have a ten-year history of readings for pH, Alkalinity, Turbidity, Total Suspended Solids, Conductivity, Copper, Lead, Zinc, Ortho P, Ammonia-N, Nitrate-N, and by depth – Dissolved Oxygen, Temperature and Secchi readings of water clarity at specified sites. This provides a valuable baseline to help detect change in water quality under a variety of weather and development conditions.
As the population of western North Carolina continues to grow, increasing pressure is being placed on local rivers and streams. Domestic and industrial supply, agriculture, waste treatment and recreation all depend upon water resources. As these water resources are used, the need for information about how to use them wisely becomes important. The last two decades have seen many changes and improvements in water quality management; however, many questions remain unanswered. Without additional detailed information, watershed managers and decision-makers do not have the proper information necessary for the development of sound policies for the management of rivers and streams, one of our most basic natural resources.An accurate and on-going water quality database, as provided by the Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN), is essential for good environmental planning. Volunteers sample from designated sites once per month. This provides an increasingly accurate picture of water quality conditions and changes in these conditions over time. This enables communities to identify streams of high water quality which need to be preserved, as well as streams which cannot support further development without significant water quality degradation. In addition, the information allows planners to assess the impacts of increased development and measures to control pollution. In other words, this program provides the water quality data for evaluation of current management efforts and can help guide decisions effecting future management actions. Also, the VWIN program encourages the involvement of citizens of the region in the awareness, ownership and protection of their water resources.In February of 1990, volunteers began monthly sampling 27 stream sites in Buncombe County. Since then the program has continued to expand. The list now includes ten western North Carolina counties with over 200 monitoring sites including, Lake James, and the streams and rivers in the Broad, Catawba, French Broad, and Little Tennessee River watersheds. Parameters analyzed include phosphorus, nitrogen, turbidity, suspended solids, pH, alkalinity, conductivity, and heavy metals.Sample sites were chosen to adequately cover as many watershed drainage areas as possible within each county. Some sites were chosen to cover potential future water supplies. Several sites were chosen along the French Broad River itself as it flows through the region in order to assess changes in water quality over the course of the river. Several sites were also selected as control sites to provide comparison between undeveloped and developed watersheds.Organizations such as the Lake James Environmental Association, RiverLink Inc., the Environmental Conservation Organization of Henderson County, the Pacolet Area Conservancy, the Sierra Club of Transylvania County, the Lake Lure Lakefront Owners Association, and the Friends of Lake Glenville provide administrative support and the analysis is funded through grants. Until late 2009, UNC-Asheville’s Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) provided technical assistance through laboratory analysis of water samples, statistical analysis of water quality results, and written interpretation of the data. The coordination of these groups combined with dedicated volunteers that collect the water samples has produced a system that generates valid water quality data at minimal cost that would not otherwise be available to local communities.
Content above was provided by the Environmental Quality Institute of the University of North Carolina-Asheville.