Water Sentinels

Water Sentinels- Protecting Illinois' Waters

The best way to defend our waterways is to empower committed local activists with accurate information and train them in water quality monitoring techniques and grassroots advocacy. Standing knee-deep in the local waters they love is a powerful position from which to advocate for the strongest protections and proactive changes. That's what we do.

Here's how our team does it:

Training Volunteers 

The Water Sentinels program recruits and trains activists to test and assess their local waterways. We educate them with written materials, hold trainings, help them to acquire monitoring equipment and laboratory analysis resources, and teach them to compile inventories and evidence.

Water Monitoring

Sierra Club's Water Sentinels volunteers are regularly testing local rivers, lakes, and streams in their communities across the state for pollution. When we find problems, we use the data we collect to call attention to them, and to devise solutions. When we find good water quality, we know we've found a resource worth protecting, and we work with local communities to ensure that clean water continues for the future.

Advocating for Clean and Healthy Waterways

Water Sentinels are equipped with the training and experience to be strong advocates to protect Illinois' waters. These teams stand up for clean water across the state by sending letters and comments to state regulatory agencies and legislators, attending public hearings on water pollution permits and advocatinf for strict enforcement of clean water regulations. We encourage individuals and families who have been directly affected by water pollution, and anyone who cares about clean water, to become spokespeople for our watershed communities.


What our groups are doing:

Every quarter the Valley of the Fox Group monitors tributaries to Fox River in Kane and Kendall counties for nutrient pollution (phosphates and nitrates) as well as pH and conductivity (a measure of the salts in the water).Our River Prairie Group routinely checks the levels of four chemical compounds (phosphate, nitrate, ammonia, chloride), temperature, pH, and in some areas, dissolved oxygen, radioactive isotopes, and mercury in streams in DuPage County.Eagle View Group Water Sentinels use four main indicators to determine stream health (dissolved oxygen, nitrate and phosphate concentrations and turbidity estimated as total suspended solids) in the Rock River watershed near the Quad Cities in Rock Island County.

The Chicago Water Team advocates for, hold educational events about, and fosters the enjoyment of lakes, beaches and rivers in the Chicago Group region. They recently have been monitoring temperature, dissolved oxygen, phosphate and conductivity levels in the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River.


Other Water Sentinels Teams:

P Teams: Two-person teams of Sierra Club members test streams for phosphorus pollution. Teams can do testing on their own schedule, visiting streams throughout their area.Mine Monitors: Water Sentinels who live near coal mines monitor streams for mine-related pollution by testing pH and conductivity.

Runoff Rangers: Want to keep sediment out of your local stream or lake? We can train you with a video and manual on how construction sites should be properly maintained. So if you see erosion and runoff from a construction site, you will know how to contact the proper authorities to get the problem fixed.


How can I help?If you are interested in learning more about or joining in our Water Sentinels advocacy or monitoring activities, contact:

Staff:Katrina Phillips at katrina.phillips@sierraclub.org 312-251-1680 x116

Cindy Skrukrud at cindy.skrukrud@sierraclub.org 312-251-1680 x110

Volunteer Leader: Fran Caffee at fran.caffee@illinois.sierraclub.org