Aqua Cares About Bugs, and You Should Too

Why would a compliance guy at Aqua America care about bugs in the IllinoisKankakee River when most people try to avoid or kill bugs?

 

Kevin M. Culver of Aqua America

First off, I am not an entomologist (aka a bug expert) so why do I care about bugs? This is the first question I ask when conducting a source water presentation or manning our source water display booth at events.

Most of the responses I receive, depending on the age of the participant, are that:

·      Bugs are bad and need to be eliminated

·      Bugs are part of the food chain necessary to sustain life in the river

Both responses are somewhat correct but not exactly why I care. We do not want bugs in our drinking water but they are an important part of the food chain.

I care about the bugs because one can determine the health of a stream by the number and type of bugs living in the stream. Not only can the bugs be used to determine water quality, but fish and fresh water mussels can also be used as biological indicators of water quality.

 

Bugs And Your Water   

So what are macro-invertebrates (macros)? These include aquatic insect such as larvae, worms, leeches and snails that can be found under rocks, attached to plants and in the bottom sediments of rivers and streams.

Not all macros that are found indicate species of water quality. In fact, only 36 different groups of macros make up the specimens used to determine water quality.

 

The 36 Groups: What You Need to Know

As a citizen scientist through the River Watch program, I have been trained on techniques on how to properly collect and identify the water quality indicator of macro-invertebrates. 

I collect bugs at four assigned sites annually within the Kankakee watershed, located in the northeastern part of Illinois. The same sites are used each year to determine water quality at that instant and to trend this result against previous sampling events.

Each of the 36 indicator species is assigned a tolerance value (TV) to pollution between “0” being completely intolerant to pollution and “11” being highly tolerant to pollution.

The weighted average tolerance value of all the bugs collected at a site is the water quality indicator, officially known as the Macro-invertebrate Biological Index (MBI).

If a bug is intolerant to pollution, it means it hasn't acclimated to pollution, which mean the river is clean. If a bug is tolerant to pollution, it means the bug has indeed been exposed to pollution - so much so that its body has changed its reaction to pollution. 

So when Aqua tells everyone that the Kankakee River is one of the “cleanest” rivers in the Midwest, it's the bugs that prove it. The water quality in Rock Creek in the Kankakee State Park is one of the few sites in Illinois that are statistically getting cleaner, according to the bug results.

This year I also collected 849 bugs from my Kankakee River site that had the lowest ever average tolerance value (MBI) at 4.29.

 

Why Should You Care About the Bugs?  

Along with just being cool, they are an integral part of our source water protection plan. You can determine water quality by which bugs are present or absent and they are a great way to educate and demonstrate to young and old about the importance of source water protection.

 

 

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Five Ways to Keep Your Pets Hydrated This Summer

As humans, we know that we need to drink clean water often, especially during the hot summer months. However, our pets don’t know how much water they should drink and depend on us to provide fresh and clean water for them.

Since July is National Pet Hydration Awareness month, here are a few tips for keeping your pets happy and hydrated this summer.

Image: https://pixabay.com/en/puppy-golden-retriever-dog-1207816/

1. Provide fresh water daily

You wouldn’t want to drink water that’s been sitting out all day and neither does your pet. Providing fresh and clean water at least once a day encourages your pet to drink more often. If your pet drinks a lot of water or if you work long hours, you could consider a pet drinking fountain.The fountain continuously moves the water, ensuring that it is oxygenated and clean.

2. Monitor drinking habits

Cats and dogs are made up of 80 percent water. That’s 20 percent more than humans. Your pet should drink an ounce of water for every pound that it weighs. If example if your cat weighs eight pounds, it should drink eight ounces of water a day. You can monitor this by measuring the amount of water you put into your pet’s bowl and measuring the amount of water left when you replenish it.

3. Keep them out of the heat

In 2015, July was the hottest month of the year. When you’re relaxing in the air conditioning, don’t forget about your pets! Try to keep your pets inside on hot days. If your pet is outside, give it an ample amount of cool water and ensure it is in a shady area. You can also rub your pets with a damp towel to keep them cool. 

Image: https://pixabay.com/en/cat-kitten-drink-water-mackerel-1196374/

4. Limit exercise and physical activity

Your pup probably loves and looks forward to its daily walks. On a hot day, it’s not a good idea to take your dog on a run or participate in any strenuous outdoor exercise. If you do go out, be sure to bring water for your dog to drink along the way and try to walk it in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.

5. Check for warning signs of dehydration

Cats and dogs cool down in a different way than humans. Cats sweat through their paws and dogs pant. Check for dehydration in your pets by performing the skin test. Other signs of dehydration can include fatigue, dry mouth and loss of appetite. If you suspect that your pet might be dehydrated, get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Water is a necessity that can often be forgotten when it comes to pets. Always provide fresh and clean water and keep your pets out of the heat. Your pets will thank you! 

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