Water Quality Division
About Blue Thumb
The Blue Thumb Water Quality Education Program is the educational arm of the OCC Water Quality Division. Education is a vital part of the Oklahoma Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program. Blue Thumb trains volunteers to monitor streams in their communities, conduct groundwater screenings, and to share their knowledge of water quality with others. Volunteers include an array of student groups, Girl and Boy Scout troops, families, couples, and individual citizens monitoring approximately 100 streams across Oklahoma.
Volunteer monitoring can help identify streams in need of restoration. Blue Thumb staff participate in OCC restoration projects by organizing and participating in watershed stakeholder meetings in project watersheds. Outreach efforts often include tours of demonstration farms showcasing best management practices that protect water quality, hosting community workshops, and publicizing events through the media. Blue Thumb education programs are funded by Section 319 Clean Water Act grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The goal of Oklahoma's Blue Thumb Program is to protect water resources against nonpoint source pollution by empowering citizens to protect water quality. This is accomplished through:
- Educational workshops
- Demonstrations and Presentations
|The Jay High School Blue Thumb stream team takes a closer look at Brush Creek in Delaware County.
Nonpoint source pollution is the "pollution for which the specific point of origin is not well-defined." Both urban and rural lifestyles can contribute, and a few examples of nonpoint source pollution are:
- 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 helps citizens become aware of the power they have to make decisions that help keep our water resources clean.
An agricultural producer 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 "best management practices" that can be employed to help them protect their local streams and lakes.
Best management practices, often simply called "BMPs" are practices that protect water against pollution, or more generally, protect resources against human activities.
The agricultural producer can engage in no-till farming, store chicken litter 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 are practices that will reduce nutrient pollution to streams and discourage pests from making themselves too much at home.
So a BMP might be as simple as mowing more often or as complex as installing fencing to keep cattle away from sensitive creek banks.