Announcements / Progress / Science

Layers of Water Quality Assessment Information Revealed…Literally.

The Agency of Natural Resources Atlas – a mapping tool available both to Agency of Natural Resources staff and to the public – has new and very useful information for those wanting to know more about the status of our Vermont streams and rivers.

In the past, the maps could include color coding showing whether a water is impaired, altered, or stressed, but to find the reason for this condition, one had to go to a separate location and look at the “List of Impaired Waters” or the “Priority Waters Lists” (that include flow-altered and other waters).

Now the layers for impaired, altered, stressed waters can be turned on and a click with the “identify” button will provide instant information on the water’s condition.  Below is an example of the description for a segment of Stevens Brook in St. Albans:

This surface water, described as “STEVENS BROOK, MOUTH UPSTREAM 6.5 MILES” has the problem of AGRICULTURAL RUNOFF; MORPHOLOGICAL INSTABILITY, ST ALBANS CSO and the pollutant(s), NUTRIENTS, SEDIMENT, E. COLI, have caused it to not meet the Vermont Water Quality Standards. The surface water is impaired where a total maximum daily load (TMDL) is required. The complete list of 2016 impaired (303d) waters is here.

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Agency of Natural Resources staff sampling macroinvertebrates to assess water quality in Flood Brook.

In addition to this ability to know some of the impacts to a stream or river, there is also an ability to see if the water has a higher water protection classification than the baseline Class B2 classification.  Class A1  ecological waters  and Class A2  water supply waters, as well as streams, rivers, lakes or ponds with some uses Class B2 and other uses B1.  (A use could be swimming or aquatic biota).

Below is an example of the information that comes up when the  “Water quality classification”  layer box is checked; the three categories (A1, A2, Mixed Classifications) are also checked; and the “identify” button is used in the watershed of Roaring Brook, a tributary to the Walloomsac river in southwestern Vermont.

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Here is another example, that of Bingo Brook – a high quality tributary to the upper White River in Hancock and Goshen that was re-classified as Class A1 for four of its eight designated uses.

All surface waters within this area, named “Bingo Brook” and described as “Bingo Brook and tributaries from headwaters downstream to the Green Mountain National Forest boundary above Kings Pond (Hancock/Rochester)” are classified differently based on use. This area was classified on 12/15/2016. All classified waters can be found in Appendix F of the Vermont Water Quality Standards.

Aquatic Biota: Class A(1) Ecological Waters
Aquatic Habitat: Class A(1) Ecological Waters
Aesthetic: Class B(2) Minimum
Boating: Class A(1) Ecological Waters
Fishing: Class A(1) Ecological Waters
Swimming: Class B(2) Minimum
Public Water Source: Class B(2) Minimum
Irrigation: Class B(2) Minimum

This mapping information makes it easier to find critical information about many of our stream and river conditions.   This is in addition to the numerous useful reports or water quality data that can be found on the Watershed Management Division’s website.   Check out this location for reports or this location for a chance to retrieve data for even more information on your favorite river or stream.