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Increased Water Temps In Russian River Prompt Public Experiment

SONOMA COUNTY (KPIX 5) -- The Russian River Watershed Association is asking the public to help take the temperature of water in the Russian River and its tributaries.

The watershed spanning more than 1,400 miles is a popular tourist destination as well as the habitat for dozens of species.

The river has gotten warmer and warmer over the years. This public-supported experiment aims to help map the rising temperatures.

"We are first trying to get people engaged in the community and out in the watershed, and also provide awareness to the general public that temperature is a big concern for the watershed," said Colleen Hunt, a senior scientist for the Russian River Watershed Association.

One of the biggest concerns is temperature pollution, which can destroy critical habitats for endangered fish species and increase risk for the growth of toxic blue-green algae.

The data isn't a scientific study, according to Hunt, but it will be the first data set of its kind that is likely to open eyes.

"I think people will be concerned with what they find," said Hunt.

The Watershed Association said the public doesn't have to do anything fancy or specific; water thermometers from a local pool store will work just fine. These devices are meant to go in the water and can be found for less than $10.

Once the thermometer is dropped in, it should be left in for about three minutes before an accurate reading is ready.

The Watershed Association asks that the public send their data via email or online submission and they will make a temperature map with the readings. They hope that the data will be the basis for public support and change regarding the watershed.

"The public can do small, incremental things that will make a difference over time, especially caring for the creek and the vegetation of the creek" said Hunt.

All of the other tributaries that flow into the Russian River, such as the Laguna De Santa Rosa, are being affected as well.

There is a whole map of the other tributaries on the Russian River Watershed Association's website, as well as other ways for the public to get involved and instructions for how to submit temperature data.

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