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Tonganoxie High School biology students are continuing their long tradition of keeping track of water quality in Tonganoxie Creek, Nine Mile Creek and Stranger Creek.
Now, two other area schools, Basehor-Linwood High School and Pleasant Ridge High School, are working with them.
Andrew Miller, a student in Pat Wakeman's THS biology class, said studying water quality has increased his awareness of the importance of clean water.
"You're just more aware of where your water comes from and where it goes," Miller said.
Robert Harnden, who is also in Wakeman's class, said he's learned, by studying bacteria levels of area creeks, that it's probably not a good idea to drink the water.
"You shouldn't take a drink of any water that hasn't been treated," he said.
John Zoellner, Leavenworth County's director of planning and zoning, is coordinating the three schools to work on a study of the Stranger Creek watershed, with assistance from a grant from Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
When he started the project, Zoellner knew that Wakeman's classes had been tracking area water for at least 10 years. The THS classroom already had the necessary equipment to test the water samples.
So part of the grant and part of Zoellner's department's budget paid for needed equipment for Basehor-Linwood and Pleasant Ridge schools.
Students in Wakeman's class gathered recently at the creek behind the school seining water through a net and observing their "catch," or the creatures that live in the water.
The types of species found in the water indicate the quality of the water. In the field, students use charts to identify the species. In the classroom, they culture the water to gauge how much bacteria is present.
Zoellner said he looks forward to a full implementation of the program, possibly next year. Originally, the study was to be handled by the U.S. Geological Survey, he said.
"We decided, since Tonganoxie High School was already doing this type of project, we could get the equipment for the other high schools and help them get started, too," Zoellner said.
In the future, Zoellner wants to expand the program, so Wolf Creek is studied as well.
In the end, he hopes of course to learn more about the water quality, but also to enlighten youth as to the importance of high-quality drinking water.
"We want to try to help educate the children as to what's out there, and what needs to be done to keep the water clean," Zoellner said. "And then they can educate others, as well."