Working with volunteers is one of Cara Schildtknecht’s favorite parts of being a riverkeeper. Since she became the Waccamaw riverkeeper in May of 2017, she has been able to coordinate, train, and lead volunteers in a variety of tasks such as clean-up events and water quality sampling. According to Cara, without volunteers, riverkeepers would not be able to do their jobs as effectively.
The Waccamaw volunteer monitoring program allows volunteers to assist Schildtknecht with monitoring the water quality in Lake Waccamaw (Columbus County, NC). Monitoring the water quality of Lake Waccamaw is important because it serves as the headwaters, or starting point, for the Waccamaw river. As stated by Schildthnecht, the Waccamaw river doesn’t have normal headwaters like other rivers that start in the mountains and flow downhill. The Waccamaw starts at Lake Waccamaw and flows through a series of swamps before meeting the Atlantic Ocean at Winyah Bay in South Carolina. With more volunteers participating in the volunteer monitoring program at Lake Waccamaw, more samples can be taken, which can allow for problems that could affect the river downstream to be spotted and resolved earlier.
The volunteer program at Lake Waccamaw has been in effect since 2011 and has provided eleven years' worth of water quality data as of 2022. According to Schildtknecht, this data is incredibly useful for identifying issues with pollution because it can be used as a comparison resource to determine if water samples fall within normal ranges for respective parameters. Water quality parameters that volunteers can help test for include temperature, conductivity, pH, and turbidity, among other screening parameters. To learn more about the Waccamaw Riverkeeper volunteer program please visit this website!