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CRWP provides support to watershed and community groups within the Connecticut River Watershed interested in initiating river monitoring and assessment programs. Staff work with local stakeholders to identify water quality concerns and develop program goals; design water quality studies; recruit and train volunteers; carry out monitoring activities; compile and analyze data; write reports; and use the information generated about water quality and stream health to plan and direct river and watershed protection and improvement efforts.

CRWP supports three types of monitoring activities: Stream Walk Surveys, Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assessments, and Water Sampling.

Stream Walk Surveys

Background: A Stream Walk Survey is a survey of the physical characteristics of a river corridor. The survey is a systematic way to observe and record information about the river channel (water and stream bottom), streambanks, and adjacent land. The physical characteristics of a stream are important to the plants and animals that live in there; changes that degrade the physical habitat can make streams uninhabitable for aquatic life.

Protocol: The CRWP Stream Walk Survey protocol is an adaptation of one developed by the CT Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Volunteers walk or boat stretches of rivers and record information about physical characteristics on survey sheets. They document characteristics such as water depth, stream width, vegetation along the banks and composition of the riverbed, and describe degraded areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Stream Walk Surveys take place in late summer and early fall, when water flows are lower and slower, making it both possible and safe for volunteers to walk through streams to record observations. Water temperatures tend to be warmer; aquatic plant growth is at its most abundant; and emergent plants are tall and trees and shrubs have their leaves, important for identifying streamside vegetation.

Data Use: Information collected provides a baseline to measure possible future changes against, and is used to identify areas of concern and promote conservation of valuable river resources.

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Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assessments

Background: Benthic macroinvertebrates are bottom dwelling aquatic organisms such as stonefly, mayfly and caddisfly nymphs that can be seen with the unaided eye. They are good indicators of water quality for several reasons: many are sensitive to pollution, the composition of the community is a good reflection of long-term water quality, they cannot easily escape pollution, and they are relatively easy to collect. In addition, there are many established methods for using macroinvertebrate data to assess water quality and stream health. Benthic macroinvertebrates are collected from shallow riffle areas by disturbing the stream bottom and catching the dislodged organisms in a net.

Protocol: CRWP support two types of benthic macroinvertebrate assessments: rapid bioassessments, and more detailed, quantitative assessments. Both take place in October or November. For rapid bioassessments, samples are collected and analyzed in the field following the CT Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Rapid Bioassessment for Volunteers (RBV) protocol. The RBV protocol is not a quantitative assessment procedure; it is designed to identify streams with pollution sensitive benthic macroinvertebrate communities.

More detailed quantitative assessments involve collecting and preserving samples for analysis later in a lab following a River Network protocol. Analysis of preserved samples using this more detailed method results in standard numerical indices that quantify and better describe the health of the stream.

Data Use: Information collected provides a baseline to measure possible future changes against; is used to evaluate whether a stream’s benthic macroinvertebrate community meets the criterion in the state water quality standards; and, using the RBV protocol, is used primarily for screening purposes, to identify streams with either very high or very poor water quality.

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Water Sampling

Background: Water samples are collected by volunteers and analyzed professionally for a selection of water quality indicators. Indicators typically tested for include E. coli bacteria, nutrients (phosphates and nitrogen), turbidity, total suspended solids, pH and alkalinity. Working with local Health Directors, samples are submitted to the State Public Health Lab for analysis of biological parameters. Arrangements are often made with local university professors to assist with conducting chemical analyses.

Protocol: Water sampling generally takes place in the summertime—a high stress time for streams due to low flows and higher water temperatures—to assess worst-case conditions. Volunteers sign up to take samples at pre-determined sites and specific dates (usually bi-weekly in July and August), and are trained and provided with sampling supplies. Samples are collected early in the morning before 8 am, dropped off at specified central locations, and delivered to the lab. Volunteers also take air and water temperature, and make visual observations of water level, color and smell.

Data Use: Information collected provides a baseline to measure possible future changes against, and it used to evaluate whether streams meets the criterion in the state water quality standards for certain indicators; assess the impacts of nonpoint source pollution on streams; evaluate the effectiveness of improvement actions, such as implementation of best management practices; determine whether streams are safe for water contact recreation; and in developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).

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