On July 26, 2018, 4-H AL Water Watch history was made as Madison Younge won first place for her project, “Blackwater: Is It Normal”, in the Natural Resources Category of the Freestyle Showcase during the 4-H State Competitive Events Day at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, AL.

4-H Competitive Events Day is an annual event with the purpose of assisting youth to realize their potential and develop a positive self image. Through learning by doing, youth can build self confidence and a feeling of accomplishment. 4-H members can compete in a variety of categories that include public speaking, photography,  and even barbecuing (Poultry Que)! Each project must follow specific guidelines and include a community service component.

4-H’ers are judged on their block creations in the Blocks Rock Category

The Freestyle Showcase is an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned and achieved from a 4-H activity they enjoy. Madison Younge is a member of the first official 4-H AWW Group, 4-H AWW Washington County, which was also the first recipient of the 4-H AWW Outstanding 4-H Group Award. She was certified as a Water Chemistry Monitor in 2015, and has tested three sites on Bassett Creek regularly since, submitting more than 110 records!

Madison with her project display

Through her monitoring, she noticed that the pH of Bassett Creek is consistently lower than the optimum pH range of 6.0-8.5, which is the Alabama Water Quality Standard for pH. She checked other parameters and felt confident that the low pH was not due to industrial, municipal, or agricultural factors.

pH Chart for one of Madison’s sites on Bassett Creek

Her curiosity led her to learn that Bassett Creek is considered a blackwater stream . Blackwater streams are slow-moving water bodies that typically have sandy bottoms, and are brown or tea colored. The odd coloration of the water is caused when tannic acid is leached from the leaves and needles of certain trees that inhabit the blackwater streambanks. In addition to having an effect on the water’s color, the tannic acid lowers the pH, increasing its acidity.

Madison found that her creek was healthy through the other tests she performed, and furthermore evidenced by the bass she regularly catches there with her grandad! The aquatic organisms have adapted to this unique environment.

Her project teaches us that it’s important to consider the natural characteristics of a waterbody in order to determine its water quality. AND hard work is sometimes rewarded with blue ribbons! Congratulations to Madison, and keep taking care of Bassett Creek!