Science

Partnering with Watersheds United Vermont for Improved Water Quality Monitoring

The Watershed Management Division (WSMD) was pleased to be invited to Watersheds United Vermont’s biannual meeting in early April to discuss opportunities to strengthen and promote citizen involvement in surface water testing, including the La Rosa Partnership Program and others. Mary Russ from the White River Partnership facilitated a broad ranging discussion, the content of which described how the Division has capitalized on the efforts of citizen science monitoring to promote better watershed management.

Restoration of a highly eroded gully in the Pond Brook subwatershed of Lewis Creek, Monkton, VT

Restoration of a highly eroded gully in the Pond Brook subwatershed of Lewis Creek, Monkton, VT

Workshop participants learned that citizen scientist data from the LaRosa Partnership and Lay Monitoring Programs have been used in every part of the state to develop TMDL or other pollution control assessments and plans, in the general assessment of water quality condition, and in the targeting and implementation of water quality improvement projects. Notable examples include:

  • Lake Carmi and Ticklenaked Pond TMDLs, implementation plans, and projects.
  • Statewide coli bacteria TMDL and follow up monitoring throughout VT.
  • Identification of the importance of small Lake Champlain tributaries in Chittenden/Addison Counties as phosphorus sources.
  • Remediation of major gully erosion in the Pond Brook subwatershed of the Lewis Creek.
  • Identification of streams for reclassification to Class A(1) in many areas of the State.
  • Identification and remediation of numerous agricultural pollution sources in the Otter Creek, White, and Memphremagog watersheds.
  • Assistance to wastewater treatment facility operators in monitoring streams in southeast VT.
  • New numeric nutrient criteria for lakes and ponds, developed from Lay Monitoring data, recently adopted into the Vermont Water Quality Standards (see Tables 3, 4, and 5).

Also described during the workshop was a “beta” version of a new WSMD Water Quality Data Portal (draft test page here) that will soon present all water monitoring data developed by the Division and our monitoring partners in a mapped, easily digested format.  The data portal will provide summarized water quality and biological data from lake, river, and wetlands sites statewide.

Participants also explored ways in which the WSMD can strengthen partnerships with watershed organizations, UVM, and other institutions to advance citizen science monitoring efforts. Opportunities included:

  • Identification of dedicated funding to support operational costs for monitoring.
  • Additional guidance regarding the acquisition of flow measurements to supplement water quality testing.
  • A better website presence for the LaRosa Program.
  • Strengthening of the LaRosa Partnership Program by incorporating certain support elements of the Lay Monitoring Program.
  • Development of consistent guidance for data analysis and templates for reporting of results.
  • Development of common data reporting to allow data in separate systems (UVM, DEC, Vermont Monitoring Cooperative) to be jointly displayed.

The WSMD is currently discussing options to realize some of these opportunities, and is developing a proposal which can be shared among the monitoring community by means of the new Vermont Water Monitoring Council, perhaps in July of this year. If you are interested in engaging in water quality testing, contact your local watershed or lake association, or the Monitoring, Assessment and Planning or Lakes Programs of the WSMD. Otherwise, stay tuned!

Percent of site locations tested by DEC staff, LaRosa Partners, and Lay Monitoring Program participants, 2003-2013

Percent of site locations tested by DEC staff, LaRosa Partners, and Lay Monitoring Program participants, 2003-2013