Water quality is a complex and interesting topic. For many people, concerns about water quality in their local river or stream led to their involvement in river stewardship groups and activities. Since the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972 and the considerable contributions of clean water advocates, the health and quality of our waterways has improved significantly. but work remains before all waterbodies meet 'fishable and swimmable' goals all the time.

Water quality monitoring plays a key role in efforts to further reduce water pollution. Monitoring provides answers to questions about the condition of waterways, informs management decisions and identifies problems. Water quality encompasses a wide range of issues making the business of water quality monitoring a complex undertaking. Monitoring must fit the situation and the questions needing answers.

Massachusetts is fortunate to have many local organizations investing in water quality monitoring. Most groups rely on volunteers whose donated time and talents stretch limited funding to provide a sound repository of information about our waterways. A few groups are fortunate to be able to allocate staff time to water quality monitoring programs while others are run by volunteers exclusively.

DER is pleased to be able to contribute to this grassroots effort through direct technical assistance. Riverways’ staff provides guidance to groups in different phases of their programs. We work with groups just starting or resurrecting a volunteer-based monitoring program- helping them hone their goals for the initiative and develop a sound monitoring plan (often called a Quality Assurance Project Plan) to ensure their efforts are directed and appropriate to their needs. Once a monitoring program is in place, Riverways’ staff frequently fills the role of quality control officer corroborating the program is following protocols and the data meets quality levels. We also help groups make sense of collected data, write reports and refine their project over time. If you would like to learn more about water quality efforts and technical assistance, please contact Cindy Delpapa  (cindy.delpapa@ state.ma.us).


MA Dept of Environmental Protection -Wetlands and Watersheds

US Environmental Protection Agency’s  Learn About Water

Water Quality Data Portal (allows you to search for data on specific waterways)