We Are The Water Sentinels — Rios de Taos

The Water Sentinels—Rios de Taos is a group of Sierra Club volunteers whose primary goal is to monitor the water quality in rivers of Taos County. Sentinels measure water quality components in five streams three times each year and we can do additional testing when someone reports a potential problem. We do have some other goals that may not be so obvious.

We strive to form coalitions with other community groups that share many of our Sierra Club and clean water goals. For the last seven years, Sentinels has co-sponsored the Taos Village Land and River Clean-up day with other community groups, such as Village of Taos, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and Amigos Bravos. This has involved as many as 130 volunteers (this year) cleaning up dump sites in and along our rivers. We want people to work together in the community and we want the Sierra Club name out there in the public eye.

The purpose of Trout Unlimited is not to be a fishing club, but to pursue cold water conservation. Of course the Sierra Club shares that goal and many of us belong to both organizations. This is especially important in Northern New Mexico, where the excellent trout fishing attracts a large share of those important tourist dollars. Most conservation organizations, including TU and the Sierra club, are interested in attracting younger members. To that end, TU and Water Sentinels have assisted in many youth fishing derbies that are sponsored by NM Game and Fish, BLM, and the Forest Service. We have donated more than fifty rod and reel combinations to kids who have participated in fishing derbies at Lake Malloy, Eagle Rock Lake and Santa Cruz Lake just this past summer.

Of course, our main goal is to help keep our streams clean and healthy. Trained Sentinel volunteers do testing of the water in several streams. We measure temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and electrical conductivity streamside and collect water samples for e. coli bacteria and some other parameters to be analyzed at EPA certified laboratories. In addition to monitoring the Rio Hondo, Rio Pueblo de Taos, Rios Fernando de Taos, as we have for the last seven years, we have expanded to monitor sites on the Red River and the Rio Grande del Ranchos. We also have some volunteers doing streamside analysis on the Cimmaron watershed streams on the other side of the mountains.

Analysis of our data is done by Amigos Bravos, a New Mexico clean water advocacy group. They, in turn, send our data to the New Mexico Environmental Department’s Bureau of Surface Water Quality. BSWQ use our data to determine whether or not a stream meets clean water standards or is to be listed as “impaired” and needs to be cleaned up. BSWQ does not have the staff to monitor every stream, so Water Sentinels really functions to help them keep our state’s precious resource clean.

We do not have data that we wish to post just yet, but we will be doing just that as our sampling season starts in May. However, we would like to put this up:

Volunteers Wanted!

Water Sentinels--Rios de Taos is looking for a few additional volunteers to help us collect and analyze water samples from the streams of Taos County. We will have a full day-long training session in early May and will usually spend a half day in late May, mid-July and mid-September collecting and analyzing samples. If interested, please contact Eric Patterson at 575-776-22833 or at eepatt@gmail.com

We get our feet wet, but we have fun!