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The Waterwatch Education Program

Waterwatch provides a free and flexible environmental education program that is hands-on, interactive and a great way to learn about your local waterway and environment. Students can participate in a range of exciting water quality monitoring techniques including Waterbug Snapshots and physical and chemical monitoring, while learning about important catchment health and water quality issues. The Waterwatch Coordinator delivers field activities at your local waterway and all equipment is provided.

Macroinvertebrate Snapshots

About Macro-Invertebrate (Bug) Snapshots

Every year, Waterwatchers throughout Australia take an insect net to their local waterway to explore the world of water bugs that exist in our creeks, rivers, lakes and drains. These water bugs or macro-invertebrates live in the water for most of their life, and can tell us a lot about how healthy our waterways are.
Conducting a Waterwatch Waterbug Snapshot is the chance for you and your class to have fun and explore your local water resources. By sampling and identifying the animals you find, you will learn heaps about the fascinating world that exists beneath and on the surface of our creeks, rivers, lakes and drains. You may even be surprised by the variety of life living within our waterways………all you need is a group of enthusiastic bug catchers!
The Ginninderra Catchment Group can provide you with all the equipment and resources you will need to undertake a Bug Snapshot. Waterbug snapshots are run in Spring (October to end term 4) and autumn (March - May).
You might also like to check out some resources or website links related to Waterbug Snapshots.

What is a Macro-invertebrate or Water Bug?

The term ‘water bug’ is used as shorthand for aquatic macro-invertebrates. ‘Aquatic’ meaning they live in the water, ‘macro’ meaning they can be seen with an unaided eye (no microscope needed) and ‘invertebrate’ meaning they do not have a back bone (vertebrate).
Aquatic macro-invertebrates spend all or part of their life in waterways like streams, rivers, ponds, estuaries, wetlands and irrigation drains. Water bugs include insects, crustaceans, molluscs and worms including stoneflies, mayflies, shrimps, flatworms, blood worms, leeches and beetles.

Why search for water bugs?
Some water bugs are more sensitive to pollution and environmental change than others. The presence or absence of particular bugs in a waterway tells us a lot about the health of the catchment. When water becomes polluted or disturbed, sensitive water bugs like stoneflies, mayflies and water mites may die. Flatworms, leeches and bloodworms are more tolerant to pollution and changes in habitat and will often survive. So water bugs are a little like a canary in a coalmine, they tell us about problems long before me might pick them up in other ways.

Activity Format and Logistics
Discussion can cover a variety of water-related topics listed below, and can be modified according to age group and class-specific needs.

  • The Ginninderra catchment – what’s a catchment?
  • The water cycle
  • Aquatic habitat – what’s important for bugs (and other life) to survive in urban environments
  • Food webs – who eats who?
  • Stormwater pollution – where does it come from and what can we do about it? Relationship between landuse / land management and pollution.
  • The difference between stormwater and sewage.
  • Management of stormwater – “water sensitive urban design” eg how do the ponds work to improve water quality?

Ideally class groups will travel to a local waterway, but in-class sessions can be arranged as an alternative if needed.

  • The bug snapshots are available in spring (October to end term 4) and autumn (Mar-May) only, due to weather conditions and fluctuations in bug populations.
  • The session generally runs for approximately one hour, depending on the age of students and other needs.
  • 1 class at a time (a number of classes can do the activity consecutively over a day). Class groups must be supervised by a school teacher at all times.
  • The Waterwatch Coordinator will provide all the equipment needed.


Drip the Drop

The Waterwatch Coordinator can provide an in-class demonstration (with the help of students) about stormwater pollution. It is a fun and “eye-opening” activity, suitable as an introduction or follow-up to a larger unit on any water-related issue, especially focussing on stormwater and pollutants in an urban environment.

  • Suitable for all primary school levels.
  • This activity can be run by the Waterwatch Coordinator at any time throughout the year, and is ideally followed up with a Waterbug Snapshot activity (see above).
  • This activity can be done with about 3 classes (maximum) in the one session, but cannot be done consecutively. Takes about 1 hour.
  • All equipment is provided.
  • Discussion can focus around any of the topics mentioned above.


Physical and Chemical water quality testing

Students can investigate a local waterway’s water quality by measuring temperature, pH, electrical conductivity, and turbidity. This activity is more suited to upper primary and secondary students. (Senior students Year 10 and up, can also test for dissolved oxygen and phosphates – these tests use chemicals not suitable for younger classes). Resources related to water quality monitoring can be found here.

  • Can be done throughout the year. Regular testing (eg monthly) is most valuable, but can be done say quarterly or as a one-off activity.
  • The Waterwatch Coordinator is available to provide introductory training and discussion about related topics including:
  • The Ginninderra catchment – what’s a catchment?
  • Why is water quality important and what are we measuring?
  • Stormwater pollution – where does it come from and what can we do about it? Relationship between landuse / land management and pollution.
  • The difference between stormwater and sewage.
  • Management of stormwater – “water sensitive urban design” eg how do the ponds work to improve water quality?
  • Aquatic habitat – what’s important for aquatic life to survive in urban environments
  • An initial training session would take about 1.5 – 2 hours.
  • 1 class (or preferably half a class) at a time for training. Probably best to do in smaller groups – maybe rotate with other activities?
  • Once trained, senior students could conduct tests themselves monthly if desirable.
  • The Ginninderra Catchment Group can loan a kit to use for quarterly events. If you wanted to do monthly tests, I’d recommend getting a kit of your own – for all parameters costs about $950. For just the 3 basic parameters, costs about $600. – we might be able to help with funding for this.

Additional Activities
The Ginninderra Catchment Group can offer a variety of related activities and resources. Please contact one of our Coordinators to discuss a program suitable for your school group.