Jan 23, 2018

Detroit Volunteers Use Small Insects to Track Water Quality

Stoneflies help chart progress of water pollution reduction

Detroit area volunteers look for insects to test water quality

Roughly 200 Detroit area volunteers went in search of stoneflies on Jan. 20, 2018 in order to gauge water quality in the area. Catching and counting the insects is able to effectively aid in charting progress made towards reducing water pollution.

According to Paul Steen, aquatic ecologist for the Huron River Watershed Council, considering the insect count over time is invaluable data in understanding the current health of water in the area of southeast Michigan.

“You track those numbers over time, and it tells you if a place is getting better or worse,” Steen said. “The presence of stoneflies are a sensitive indicator of water quality because they can survive only where a stream is clean.”

Volunteers dug beneath ice and mud amidst melting snow to locate the bugs throughout various streams. On top of this work of locating insects, volunteers were also able to perform additional, general environmental checkups on their sites of analysis, with one group pinpointing a leaking pipe in a Rouge River tributary.

The bug hunt is an annual practice by volunteers in the area, taking place every January and spanning the three river systems in the metro-Detroit area.