Volunteers monitor water quality at swimming holes

On June 3, the White River Partnership (WRP) kicked-off its 15th season of monitoring water quality at 22 sites along the White River and its tributaries. WRP staff and twenty trained volunteers will keep tabs on bacteria, conductivity, and water clarity at swimming holes and other public access sites around the watershed every other Wednesday through September 23.

In 2001, the WRP developed the volunteer-led Water Quality Monitoring Program in response to community concerns that bacteria and other contaminants might be making some waters unsafe for recreation. Because of its close relationship to public health, we make the bacteria results available to the public every other Thursday via email, our website, and our Facebook page.

After the summer monitoring season wraps up, the WRP analyzes data gathered at each site to understand water quality trends and publishes a report – here are a few highlights from our 2014 Water Quality Report:

  1. Bacteria counts at Silver Lake (Barnard) and Sunset Lake (Brookfield) were very low regardless of the weather.
  2. Bacteria levels in 2014 were generally similar to 2013 levels and results from both years were a marked improvement over the 2012 results. This trend supports our hypothesis that Tropical Storm Irene was the root cause of the high numbers seen in 2012.
  3. Bacteria levels were often high immediately after rain. A rise in bacteria levels is expected during and immediately after rain events because bacteria that have accumulated on the land wash into the river along with other potential contaminants.

Because of the relationship between rainfall and bacteria levels, the WRP recommends taking precautions when deciding to recreate in the White River and its tributaries. As a rule of thumb, avoid swimming or tubing in the White River following a rain event and/or if the water is muddy because there may be an increased risk of exposure to bacterial contamination.

Do you swim, paddle, or tube in the White River? Check out the latest bacteria results online, which we post the Thursday following the most recent test date. Or if you would like to receive the biweekly bacteria results directly, please contact WRP Monitoring Coordinator Emily Miller at emily[at]whiteriverpartnership.org or 802-763-7733.

Visit our Water Quality Monitoring project page to learn more!