Tulsa County Blue Thumb is the water pollution education program for Tulsa County Conservation District. Through the Blue Thumb Program, volunteers are deployed to assist in the care of Tulsa County’s streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and ground water.
Volunteer activities vary, but can usually be divided into two categories: special events and long-term activities. Volunteers who like to do special events may assist Blue Thumb sponsors in stream clean-ups or to mark storm drains with markers.
Volunteers who return month after month are likely to be involved in stream monitoring or in educational activities like visiting schools with Blue Thumb presentations. Whatever your interests in clean water are, consider becoming a volunteer with the Blue Thumb Program.
The Blue Thumb Water Quality Education Project began in Tulsa County in 1992. It is a non-point source pollution education project. Non-point source pollution is water pollution for which the specific point of origin is not well defined. This type of pollution is best reduced through education. The Tulsa County Blue Thumb program is sponsored by: Tulsa County Conservation District, Tulsa Area Conservation Foundation, Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Nonpoint Source Pollution
Both urban and rural lifestyles contribute to nonpoint source pollution, including:
• Sediment from land clearing activities
• Fertilizer and pesticide runoff
• Animal waste runoff
• Gasoline and oil which enters water bodies
• Grass clippings placed in creeks or lakes
Blue Thumb makes citizens aware of the power they have to make decisions that help keep our water resources clean. Where a family lives and what occupations keep them afloat are important factors in how much of an opportunity they have to hurt or help water resources.
An agricultural producer who is plowing the land, spreading chicken litter to fertilize pastures, or grazing 100 head of cattle faces a different set of issues than an urban homeowner who wants a bright green lawn that is completely free of ticks and grubs. Both types of citizens need to know that there are things they can do protect their local streams and lakes.
The agricultural producer can engage in no-till farming, store chicken litter until the proper season in an appropriate building, install grassed waterways, and use rotational grazing to keep the land productive and protect water quality.
The urban homeowner can use native vegetation that needs no additional fertilizer or watering, and maintain the lawn at the proper height. These practices reduce nutrient pollution to streams and discourage pests from making themselves too much at home.
People can learn more about how they can protect water resources by contacting Tulsa County Blue Thumb at 918.280.1595.
Help for Cities in Tulsa County
The US Environmental Protection Agency has developed regulations that deal with stormwater runoff in smaller communities or urbanized areas. These Phase II regulations within the Clean Water Act require cities to educate their citizens about clean water, and the Tulsa County Blue Thumb Education Program can help.
Tulsa County Blue Thumb offers cities help establishing education and outreach programs. Components of a successful Blue Thumb Program may be:
• Volunteer monitoring—citizens working together to learn more about their local creeks
• Storm drain marking—placement of the “No Dumping” message on storm drains
• Assistance with newsletters and brochures
• Planning of civic events to educate about and celebrate water
• Blue Thumb educational tools to borrow for local events
It is not difficult to educate citizens and help them gain understanding about the value of healthy streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. City staff members who are unsure of where to begin, who want to help their citizens do their part for clean water, and who need to provide successful reports to the EPA are encouraged to contact the Tulsa County Blue Thumb Program to learn more.