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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Burrillville couple protecting the water at Spring Lake

KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 26, 2002 -- Steve and Jacky Carlson of Burrillville are working together to keep the water at their lake-side home a source of enjoyment for many years to come.

Through an article they read in their local newspaper the Carlsons learned about the Watershed Watch Program at the University of Rhode Island, a program where URI trains volunteers to monitor the water quality of ponds and lakes around the state. For eight years they have monitored the water at Spring Lake, where their family has enjoyed summers for the past three decades.

The Carlsons spend two hours a week collecting water samples, measuring water clarity, temperature, and nutrient content. "We realize that you have to appreciate what you have before you lose it," said Steve Carlson. "It is important to understand the natural cycles of the environment and to have a baseline from which changes can be measured. Collecting this data aids in assigning a cause and offering solutions to potential changes in water quality."

At the start of their testing, a significant amount of sewer construction was being done around the lake, producing a brownish hue in the water. After about a year, the water returned to its natural state of clarity. "Spring Lake experienced some initial problems with water clarity, but improved significantly in a short period of time. Since then it has maintained good water quality with low bacteria and nutrient contents, " said Elizabeth Herron, coordinator of the URI Watershed Watch Program.

The 96-acre Spring Lake is home to a thriving trout population. Visitors to the lake enjoy canoeing, kayaking, sailing, rowing, a town beach, and historic arcade. "The rich wildlife and lack of oil and noise pollution make this spring-fed lake an environmental treasure," said Steve Carlson. Residents preserve its beauty by limiting fertilizer use on their properties, preventing harmful runoff, and by planting native species that keep with the natural environment, he added.

The URI Watershed Watch program is in its 15th year of monitoring approximately 120 water bodies in the state. The program began to combat a lack of knowledge about water quality in Rhode Island’s lakes and ponds. It now has close to 300 volunteers and 30 sponsoring organizations. Locations are selected based on areas of interest to local groups. "These tend to be active public usage areas or areas where there is a visible decline in water quality," according to Linda Green, Watershed Watch program director.

The monitoring season begins in late April and ends in early November. At the end of the monitoring season, a report is written and distributed to the volunteers and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. This report is used to assess whether the water bodies are meeting state standards.

This program helps to create citizen scientists that have a personal interest in the work they are doing. "The program allows us to track problems, document high water quality, and assess possible solutions," said Green. "Without the help of volunteers this would not be possible."

Those interested in becoming Watershed Watch volunteers should contact Green at 874-2905 or Herron at 874-4552.

For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892, Nicole Duguay 874-2116

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