Why Do Garden Water TestingJuly 08, 2016
When your garden includes ponds and streams, water testing is probably a good idea. Earlier this year, we attended a seminar on retaining and recycling water in rural locations. One of the conservationists who spoke made a point of saying (paraphrasing): “There’s no such thing as a clean babbling brook on our rural properties anymore.” His point being human development and agriculture have contaminated a lot of the running water on land.
When we purchased our new property that includes a couple of ponds and a small creek that receive water from livestock land uphill and then empty downhill into a county ditch that then empties into a slough that then passes into a protected wildlife estuary, I put in a call to the Skagit Conservation District for help getting information on our pond and stream water quality.
Our goal wasn’t to start raising koi in the ponds or to drink the water from it. Rather, we wanted to get a good understanding of whether the water would be toxic for the dogs that jump into it and drink from it. We wanted to be sure that the existing population of native tadpoles, frogs, salamanders, water insects and predators would continue to thrive. And, we wanted to understand what level of nastiness might be both passing into and out of our property via the existing water ways.
Our local conservationist helped connect us with a local water testing lab, Edge Analytical. Edge helped us choose a few tests to run to set a healthy baseline on our water. We began with basic tests for things like nitrates and fecal coliforms. Certainly, we could run any number of additional tests, but both the conservation district and the lab suggested these were where we should start. Both told us to expect some naturally occurring levels of coliforms as any open water has animal traffic, and, well, shit happens.
Our test results came back in just a few days. They weren’t something I could understand on my own, but fortunately, the folks at Edge are very happy to help anyone understand the reports. So, I placed a quick call to the lab and was connected to the Director of Laboratories, Larry Henderson. He helped me understand that our tests came back with pretty healthy report levels (on the tested materials.)
We could continue to test for more levels — like oxygen which can be depleted by big water plant or algae blooms. And, when oxygen is depleted by plants, animal life in the pond can suffer. But, for now, it appears that our primary pond that drains into the creek and eventually into the bay is clear, with a happy balance of native breeding frogs, insects, salamanders and plant life.
It is a living space, so things may change over time, but for the moment, the watery wildlife is thriving beautifully, and should a pup dive in or take a drink occasionally, we won’t be terribly concerned that an immediate vet trip is necessary.
And, when our resident great blue herons and other waterfowl return to troll the pond for froggy sustinance, we’ll rest a little easier knowing they’re foraging in a fairly healthy eco-system. And, as our babbling brook flows away from the pond and through the native forest, we’ll stay hopeful that the natural bio-filters of the forest will do even more the filter the water before it heads into the greater Padilla Bay estuary system.