URI finds weather a big factor in water quality

Watershed Watch seeks more monitors for lakes, ponds KINGSTON, R.I. — March 22, 2000 — The weather in a given year can be a major factor in the quality of water in Rhode Island’s lakes and ponds. That’s one conclusion drawn by Watershed Watch, a volunteer water quality monitoring program sponsored by the University of Rhode Island’s Cooperative Extension. “In 1998, for instance, Rhode Island had nine inches of rain over three days in June,” said Watershed Watch Director Linda Green. “Coupled with an unusually wet winter and spring, that affected the water quality in many lakes and ponds for the rest of the year.” “In some locations, all that rain flushed nutrients from some ponds, while in other places it flushed in some nutrients. Many ponds became darker in color as a result of that volume of rain, which caused the ponds to heat up more than usual. The darker color also kept sunlight from penetrating the water’s surface, reducing algae and plant growth and causing declines in bottom water oxygen levels.” Watershed Watch will release the full report of the 1997-98 monitoring seasons at a meeting for volunteers and other interested residents on Wednesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. at URI’s Chafee Hall, room 273, on the Kingston campus. The written report is provided free to volunteers and their sponsoring organizations, and at a cost of $20 to others. “It’s a real challenge to figure out whether apparent changes in water quality are due to weather or due to actual water quality problems or improvements,” said Green. “That is one of the main reasons why Watershed Watch relies on multi-year monitoring.” “While the overall water quality of lakes, ponds, and streams in the program is good, we have documented some problem areas which need to be worked on, as well as some areas with excellent water quality that need to be protected. Often homeowners can take simple steps to improve or maintain water quality. Other times, efforts by local or state agencies are needed. And sometimes more intense investigation is needed to identify problems and solutions.” Now in its thirteenth year, Watershed Watch has more than 30 sponsoring organizations and 250 volunteers monitoring more than 100 water bodies in Rhode Island. The Surfrider Foundation has joined as a sponsor for 2000 and will be monitoring a number of popular surfing locations for bacterial contamination. “Our monitors are collecting valuable data which is being used both locally and nationally,” said Green. “The program is helping to make science understandable to the general public and encouraging management based on sound science.” Watershed Watch program coordinator Elizabeth Herron notes that there is a great need for additional monitors throughout the state. (See attached list for locations.) “Funding from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is helping us to expand to new locations that have never been monitored before,” said Herron. Volunteers come from all walks of life and are of all ages, occupations, educational backgrounds and interests. To qualify, volunteers must value the state’s fresh and salt water resources and want to help protect them. Since ponds and lakes are monitored at their deepest point, a boat, canoe or kayak is needed, as well as some free time in the middle of the day. Mandatory classroom training is provided on Thursday evening, April 6, or Saturday morning, April 8. Field training will occur in May. The monitoring season begins in May and ends in mid-October. Each week on a day of their choice, volunteers monitor for water clarity between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Every two weeks they also monitor water temperature, algae concentration, and dissolved oxygen. On several designated dates, volunteers also collect water samples that are analyzed at URI for nutrients, acidity and bacteria. For more information or to become a Watershed Watch volunteer, contact Linda Green or Elizabeth Herron at 874-2905 or by email at uriww@etal.uri.edu. Visit their web site at www.edc.uri.edu/uriww. -xxx- For information: Todd McLeish 874-7892