When fly fishermen approach a stream they watch for a few familiar bugs. A flurry of mayflies, caddisflies or stoneflies tell an experienced angler what food fish are rising for.
When water quality specialists approach a stream they look for the same insects for different reasons. To the trained eye, those water-dwelling macro invertebrates offer clues to the overall health of a creek.
I received a crash course on stream bugs Wednesday as I tagged along with volunteers from the city’s Water Quality and Flow Monitoring Program, in preparation for a story on the city’s State of the Island’s Waters report, which was released with little fanfare earlier this summer.
Five years of data gathered from all 12 Bainbridge watersheds and around the island’s shoreline went into the report. It’s the first comprehensive study of island water health the city has completed. The report confirmed that many island streams still struggle with high levels of harmful bacteria and nutrients, and low dissolved oxygen.