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RIVER AT A GLANCE BUILDING UNDERSTANDING THROUGH OUTREACH AND EDUCATION

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Agencies studying the effects of pollution on biological systems are often faced with seemingly simple questions from the public relating to the system's overall health. Although such questions relating to water bodies appear simple on the surface, developing answers that are scientifically and statistically valid, while at the same time understandable to the layperson, can be problematic.

The St. Johns River is a critical part of the economy and quality of life in Northeast Florida. As an American Heritage River, a Class III water, Surface Water Improvement and Management designated body, and a total maximum daily load listed water, creating awareness about river issues is of vital importance. To this end, scientists from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (FDEP) Northeast District began the St. Johns River at a Glance survey producing weekly water quality reports to provide the community with current information on the river's health. By providing information regularly, in an easily accessible and understandable format, the survey attempts to create a value for the St. Johns River, giving communities a sense of ownership and responsibility, and encouraging efforts to safeguard this important natural resource.

When evaluating water quality for River at a Glance, FDEP scientists use approved techniques to measure a variety of chemical, physical and biological parameters including water clarity, dissolved oxygen and bacteria. Since environmental factors can change quickly, scientists dubbed the survey River at a Glance to emphasize that the rating functions as a weekly snapshot of the St. Johns.

Weekly reports are available to the public through the World Wide Web at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/northeast and are distributed to local news media outlets together with government agencies and elected officials. While reporting each week's river rating in graphical and written format, the River at a Glance web site provides information and interpretation about basic water quality issues through access to archived data, annual and seasonal reports, site maps and descriptions, and explanations on the significance of water quality parameters.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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