Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Testing the Waters - South County Coastkeeper Blog

By Dave Prescott, South County Coastkeeper

Two thousand sixteen marks Save The Bay’s ninth year of water quality testing in Little Narragansett Bay and the Pawcatuck River estuary. Back in 2008, Save The Bay began efforts to get a better handle on the health of the estuary by partnering with the University of Rhode Island’s Watershed Watch program to test and analyze the water quality samples that we collected on a bi-weekly basis. The reason for this was simple: we wanted the public to know whether or not it was safe to swim and recreate in their local waters.

Save The Bay monitors the health of the estuarine Pawcatuck and Little Narragansett Bay and uses our dataset to advocate for water quality improvements and continued dialogue between the towns and the states to address ailing infrastructure and stormwater pollution. Long-term water quality monitoring is essential to identifying trends in water quality data and working towards solutions on the local level. Year after year we have wide variations in regional weather patterns which greatly impact our waters. Clearly we have water quality impacts (elevated bacteria levels, high nutrients loads due to increased runoff, etc.) during wet weather. However, even during the driest of weather, we have observed troubling conditions in the river and Bay. It is through this continued monitoring that we will get a better handle on the health of our estuaries.

This summer, we are excited to be working with the town of Westerly and the firm VHB to identify, prioritize and implement water quality improvements in the downtown sections of Westerly. Whether you live near Little Narragansett Bay or somewhere else in the state or region, I suggest checking out the resources and water quality data from the Watershed Watch website. There are countless other local organizations and hundreds of dedicated volunteers monitoring the health of our local waters. Become a steward by educating yourself on the health of your local swimming hole!