Water Quality Monitoring
The 2023 Swim Smart Monitoring season wrapped-up on Wednesday, September 6 – see results here. Thank you to the 20 volunteers who gathered water samples at 22 swimming holes throughout the watershed this summer!
Read the 4-page 2022 White River Water Quality Report to learn more about water quality in the White River watershed. The 2023 report will be available later this fall.
Why we monitor water quality
In 2001, the WRP launched the first citizen-based Water Quality Monitoring Program in the White River watershed in an effort to better understand potential threats to water quality and public health. While overall water quality in the White River watershed is relatively good, problems do exist. Sedimentation and erosion are the most prominent water quality concerns, followed by elevated water temperatures, nutrients, and pathogens – all of which contribute to reduced habitat for fish and other aquatic life. The presence of pathogens and other chemicals can pose serious threats to human health as well.
Since 2001, WRP staff and trained volunteers have kept tabs at 22 sites throughout the watershed, including popular swimming holes and the mouths of major tributaries. Every other Wednesday morning from June through September, we measure for water clarity (also called turbidity) and electrical conductivity (a measure of dissolved salts and other chemicals in the water, often from run-off). Our volunteers also collect water samples that are tested for bacteria.
What we test
Bacterial monitoring is a practical method to determine the potential health risk of water exposure. Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms that can be found in virtually any environment. Bacterial indicators of pollution are the species found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, including humans, where many pathogens also originate. Indicator bacteria in a waterway come from many sources, including animal droppings, faulty or leaking septic or sewage systems, stormwater runoff, and disturbed sediments.
Because the White River watershed is a popular destination for swimming and recreating, we have been keeping a close eye on bacteria levels in an effort to better understand the potential sources of pathogens. While our existing data reveals that bacteria is prevalent in certain parts of the watershed, the swimming holes we monitor have not demonstrated a bacteria problem.
Water turbidity (clarity) and conductivity are also important indicators of water quality. Turbidity indicates how clear or cloudy the water is – a high turbidity reading means that there are suspended solids in the water, likely resulting from erosion. Electrical conductivity reveals the presence of dissolved salts and compounds that originate from road run-off, pesticides, and other sources.
Other monitoring efforts
The WRP coordinates several additional monitoring efforts:
- Monitoring nutrients at Swim Smart sites with high bacteria levels as part of the state’s LaRosa Partnership Program;
- Monitoring the effectiveness of 150+ watershed restoration projects;
- Monitoring the distribution of invasive Rusty crayfish;
- And more!
For more information
For more information about our monitoring programs, please contact us.