Bugs indicating Waterway health

October 11, 1999 The Southern Weekly Magazine

National Water Week October 17-23 is a time for everyone to Protect, Conserve and Get Involved. Thousands of students, educators, Landcare and Rivercare group members will do just that on Wednesday October 20 for the 1999 Spring Water Bug Survey.

Armed with nets and identification manuals hundreds of groups will mobilise to sample their local waterways for a range of macroinvertebrates (water bugs).

Statewide Waterbug Coordinator, Pete Nettell of the Department of Land and Water Conservation said he expected more than 400 groups across the state to be participating in this year's Spring Water Bug Survey to celebrate National Water Week.

"Water bugs help provide a snapshot of how healthy our waterways are,"' Pete said.

"When water becomes polluted, the water bug population will reflect it. Sensitive water bugs like stoneflies, mayflies and shrimps may die. Other more robust bugs like flatworms, leeches, bloodworms and beetles often survive high levels of water pollution."

So the equation is simple: presence of more sensitive bugs + greater variety of water bugs = healthier water.

What makes the Bug Survey especially unique is that you don't need years of water quality or entomology training to participate. The Department of Land and Water Conservation can provide all the information to prepare your group for an enjoyable day at your local river, creek, billabong or dam.

The Bug Survey is used as a fun activity to demonstrate the more serious need for sustainable catchment management. It serves to highlight that everything we do impacts either positively or negatively on the health of our catchment.

"The bug survey is an innovative teaching tool for natural resource education. While also providing an opportunity for the general community to get involved," Pete said.

To cope with demand the Bug Survey has gone high tech, a website has been established to streamline the distribution of information and retrieval of results. The website also contains some games and graphics to help people learn more about our buggy friends.

The NSW Water Bug Survey is held in spring and autumn each year.

For all the latest in Waterbug information, games and graphics the Water Bug Survey can be found at http://www.streamwatch.org.au. Or contact your local office of the Department of Lands and Water Conservation.