Riverwatch group readies for water-sampling season

STARKSBORO — The ground is frozen, the creeks are shelving with ice, and water critters are still comatose, but the Addison County Riverwatch Collaborative is busy gearing up for the 2013 spring-summer season of taking water samples from our local streams and rivers.
“February and March are as busy as our sampling months,” said local Riverwatch Coordinator Matthew Witten. “We are taking stock of last season’s results, completing our proposals for this summer’s monitoring around our county, and also gathering financial and volunteer support to continue our work.”
Witten explained that Addison County Riverwatch Collaborative (ACRWC), a consortium of several watershed groups that conduct water quality monitoring, will be hosted by the Bobcat Café in Bristol for one of its fundraising evenings on the day before Valentine’s Day — Wednesday, Feb. 13. Twenty percent of the food sales that evening will be donated to ACRWC for its stream protection efforts.
The Riverwatch Collaborative has also has teamed up with some town Conservation Commissions to request funds for its ongoing citizen work at upcoming town meetings. Both Lincoln and New Haven town meeting warnings will include such a request for financial support.
Dean Percival, chair of the New Haven Conservation Commission, said his commission supports the work of the local Riverwatch group because “water is one of our most important natural resources.” He felt a town meeting request for $500 to support ACRWC was justified.
“For the cost of much less than a cup of coffee, you can ensure that someone is watching the waters we fish, swim and boat in,” Percival said.
Kristen Underwood, member of the collaborative and also its technical consultant, offered her perspective. “Last season was somewhat drier than normal — a welcome change from the year before when so many communities were impacted by Tropical Storm Irene and spring flooding,” she said. “In the driest month of September, we saw E.coli concentrations spike at some of the county’s swimming holes, including Bartlett’s Falls on the New Haven River.”
The collaborative will send an annual report to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in March. Around the same time, they will request analytical support from the DEC LaRosa Laboratory for monitoring in the 2013 season.
“This year we plan to sample at 31 separate stations located on the Lewis Creek, Lemon Fair River, Little Otter Creek, Middlebury River, New Haven River and Otter Creek,” Underwood said. “We test for E.coli, phosphorus, nitrogen and turbidity.”
Addison County Riverwatch Collaborative is planning its upcoming annual training session for volunteers. Witten said the Collaborative is always looking for volunteers. “Water quality monitoring is a great way to get yourself outdoors and in touch with local streams and their surroundings. It’s also an important and satisfying service to your community – there’s a lot of camaraderie in what we do.”
The spring training session takes place the morning of Saturday, March 16, at the Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) in Middlebury. The ACRPC helps host Riverwatch in its physical and cyber-facilities, and this year the ACRPC has also received grant funding from the Vermont DEC to update water quality maps for the municipalities in the region.
During the training in March, participants will go over the routines for preparing sample bottles, collecting samples, and filling out data forms. All the monitoring that the group’s volunteers conducts must be done according to an EPA-approved protocol. When the prescribed methods are adhered to, the state and federal governments approve the validity of the data and the information can be used to guide management decisions.
If you are interested in playing a part in getting to know our local streams and helping protect them, please contact ACRWC coordinator Matthew Witten: [email protected]; 434-3236.
Editor’s note: This story was provided by Mathew Witten.

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