Water Sentinels testing and teaching

Photo of the Rio Grande River for Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter website

By Eric Patterson, Water Sentinels— Rios de Taos coordinator

Water Sentinels-Rios de Taos were joined by new members Jon Klingel, Meg Peterson, Gaea McGahee, Cliff Collins, Jo Carey, Claire Latowsky, Jim Crowl and Julia Wilson on our first monitoring of the season May 28.

We are monitoring selected sites on the Rio Fernando de Taos, Rio Pueblo de Taos, Rio Hondo, and the Red River. This year, we will also be testing at several locations on the Rio Grande.

The rivers were all higher than normal with a good spring runoff. We are again finding high levels of E. coli on the Rio Fernando, which indicate further testing will be needed, as this has been a recurring problem. Our cooperating partner, Amigos Bravos, has applied for a grant to do more extensive monitoring on the Rio Fernando.

Water Sentinel Jim Morgan (who has a doctorate in chemistry) has been doing water-monitoring on the east side of the mountains, in conjunction with the Cimarron Watershed Watch.

Jim met with the Philmont Scout Ranch people and showed them some monitoring techniques using our multimeters and dissolved oxygen test kits. Philmont has ordered its own equipment and will incorporate water-monitoring into several of their 21-day treks this summer. If it goes well, it may be a part of the Philmont experience for thousands of Scouts in the future.

Water Sentinels and the Rio Grande Chapter of Sierra Club are interested in looking at sites on the Pecos River that may be impaired because of waste from the dairy industry. If you have a concern about such a location, please email Eric Patterson at or call at 575-776-2833.

Tiger Salamander News

Water Sentinels — Rios de Taos has a grant from the Sierra Club’s Grassroots Network to involve young people in monitoring water quality. Taos High School formed an environmental group called the Tiger Salamanders. These students have participated in several water related projects, led by science teacher David Gilroy. The students (and Mr. Gilroy) are Sierra Club members. Most of the students are also Trout Unlimited members. They have done water monitoring on the Rio Pueblo de Taos and on the Red River near Questa.

The Tiger Salamanders did an Earth Day cleanup on a stretch of the Rio Fernando near their school and participated in a Watershed Watch Fishing Day event sponsored by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with River Source, New Mexico Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited. About 60 students from Questa and Taos High Schools attended the event headed by Rich Shrader, Colleen Welch, and Carlos Herrera from Game and Fish.

The event included water-monitoring, planting willow trees, fly-casting lessons, fly-tying, and some really good fishing.

Several of the Tiger Salamanders conducted research projects under the supervision of David Gilroy. They presented the results of their research projects on poster boards at the annual fundraising banquet of the Enchanted Circle Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The projects and presentations were excellent and well received by the Trout Unlimited attendees.

One Tiger Salamander, Daniel Romero, received a Sierra Club Award for Excellence for his research project and for his outstanding contributions to the Tiger Salamander organization. He also received a fly rod and reel from the Sierra Club. The Water Sentinels and the Tiger Salamanders are looking forward to continuing their work together during the next school year.

Featured photo by Chyeburashka