Baseline Monitoring Project

The Baseline Monitoring Project collects baseline water quality data, shares the information with others, and reduces water quality impairments.  Baseline water quality monitoring is performed in the main stem of the Merrimack River in Massachusetts, with some in southern New Hampshire.

Monitoring includes the parameters pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), salinity, conductivity, total dissolved solids (TDS), turbidity (water clarity), and bacteria (Escherichia coli and Enterococcus).  Water quality, combined sewer overflow, and meteorological data are analyzed with descriptive statistics (e.g. mean, median, minimum and maximum values) to determine sources of pollution, and results are presented in an annual report that is made available to the public, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Protecting the watershed occurs in the form of reporting poor water quality measurements (e.g. high bacteria concentrations, extremely low pH) to MassDEP and EPA to hold polluters responsible.  Promoting a healthy ecosystem is done through public education and outreach.

The Safe Beaches Project monitors two popular swimming areas along the Merrimack River to determine pathogen and nutrient levels on a near real-time (24 hour) basis. Data collected will be used to generate a model to predict safe or unsafe swimming conditions, and locate and remediate contributors to high bacteria counts.

Objectives and goals: Improved water quality in the Merrimack River and its watershed.

Justification: The monitoring projects incorporate science through water quality monitoring and data analysis, advocacy through outreach and education, and partnering with other watershed organizations, towns, and individuals.

Funding Source: Grants

Required Resources: Volunteers (river monitoring volunteers and boat operators with access to boats); river monitoring instruments and test kits (e.g. YSI MPS 556 multi-probe meters; IDEXX Colilert and Enterolert systems; nutrient, and surfactant kits) with associated consumables; Secchi disks; GPS units; water sampling equipment (bottles and labels) and laboratory analyses; Quality Assurance Project Plan; and statistical software

Milestones: 240 interested volunteers (94 trained in monitoring, with over 30 active in 2009); 120 monitoring trips to date; 4 Notices of Noncompliance; featured in over 20 published news articles since 2006; approximately 100 miles of shoreline surveyed

Deliverables: Data collected, volunteers, Notices of Noncompliance, Annual River Monitoring Report, Earth Day Celebration

Status: Baseline Monitoring has been ongoing since 2007.   The Safe Beaches Project began in 2010.