The Synoptic Sampling partnership is CSI’s longest-running volunteer water monitoring program, beginning in 2002 in the Fall and Virgil Creek watersheds. The goal is twofold: to be producing ongoing data that informs water resource management decisions by local government while simultaneously educating and empowering citizens to become stewards of their local environment. CSI’s synoptic sampling volunteers are active in the Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake watersheds.
Groups of volunteers are organized into teams that collect stream samples several times per year at fixed locations in a single watershed. These samples are collected “synoptically” or all on the same day within a few hours to ensure that stream flow and meteorological conditions are consistent at all locations. Volunteers collect samples, measure water temperature on site, fill out chain of custody sheets, and transport samples on ice to the CSI lab for certified chemical and bacteriological analyses. Check out this video to learn the ins and outs of CSI’s synoptic sampling and why it’s so special and important.
Depending on funding, synoptic sampling volunteer groups sample 2-5 times per year. At a minimum, CSI aims to arrange one base flow event and one storm water event for each watershed. The time commitment involved is 2-3 hours per monitoring event.
The synoptic sampling partnership is a traditional water monitoring program that includes a number of indicators of agricultural and residential development impacts, including: pH, alkalinity, turbidity, inorganic and organic nitrogen, phosphorus (both dissolved and total), E. coli (indicator for pathogenic bacteria), chlorides, total suspended solids, specific conductance, and total hardness. The photo to the left shows sediment plumes going into Cayuga Lake after a heavy rain. Monitoring after rain storms helps us learn about how much sediment is traveling into Cayuga Lake and where it is coming from.
Many of these parameters double as indicators of contamination from shale gas wells. In an effort to establish more comprehensive baseline data for watersheds that may be affected by “hydrofracking”, CSI’s synoptic partnership has added the following specific “hydrofracking” indicators at selected locations: total dissolved solids, chemical oxygen demand, MBAS (surfactants), barium, strontium and gross alpha and beta radioactivity. Thanks to funding from the Tompkins County Legislature, CSI was able to add these “hydrofracking” indicators at 35 locations in the Cayuga Lake Watershed in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Currently, CSI’s synoptic sampling partnerships are in the Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake watersheds only. Volunteers monitor Fall Creek, Virgil Creek, Six Mile Creek, Salmon Creek, Trumansburg Creek, Taughannock Creek, the Cayuga Inlet (including Enfield, Buttermilk and Cascadilla Creeks), as well as several small streams that flow directly to Cayuga Lake. In the Seneca Lake watershed, volunteers monitor Catherine Creek, Big Stream, and Reeder Creek.
All locations can be viewed in the CSI Database, along with data going back to 2002 – over 80,000 certified data items to date.
If you’re interested in volunteering with CSI’s Synoptic Sampling program, contact Steve Penningroth, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org