Surface water monitoring by individual volunteers, school groups, stream teams, watershed associations, and others is a valuable component of DEP's approach to watershed management. The Massachusetts Watershed Initiative supports citizen monitoring through the establishment and maintenance of a Statewide monitoring support center, by administering a grant program to foster the development of new and existing monitoring groups, and by providing technical assistance as needed.
The primary benefits of qualitative and quantitative data collection by citizen groups are:
- Increased awareness of watershed-specific environmental issues by data gatherers, data users and the general public. Information gathered by watershed inhabitants is especially useful with regard to non-point pollution during episodic events (e.g. rainfall runoff from eroding streambanks, farms, construction sites, parking lots, etc.) and to help identify and document pollution sources. The data are often used to educate residents about ways to preserve and improve environmental quality.
- Greater potential for additional stewardship actions by volunteers and others. Volunteer monitoring can help motivate interested citizens and groups to beneficial action intended to protect and restore natural areas and water quality, and
- Generation of usable data of known and documented quality that can be used to assess the health of specific waterbodies and to evaluate the need and potential for capital improvements and funding. Consistent with DEP's Quality Management Plan, DWM requires that volunteer and other sources of information meet the following criteria:
- DWM-approved production and implementation of a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), including the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be used for field sampling and laboratory analyses. DEP, with assistance from the Massachusetts Water Watch Partnership (MWWP), recently issued a detailed guidebook for volunteer QAPP production. Other surveying aids from the MWWP are linked below.
- Use of an analytical laboratory with proven capabilities for the applicable analyses, well-documented SOPs and a QA Plan. The Wall Experiment Station maintains a current list of State-certified laboratories (preferred).
- The information is documented in a citable report, which includes discussion of quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC), as well as data management.
Questions regarding volunteer water quality monitoring can be directed to the MADEP Division of Watershed Management or the Massachusetts Water Watch Partnership.
- Surveying a Lake Watershed and Preparing an Action Plan (PDF) file size 1MB
A guide for non-technical volunteers.
- Appendices for the Lake Watershed Survey Guide (PDF) file size 3MB
Sample survey forms, frequently asked questions, guidance on reading maps, and more information for volunteer watershed monitors.
- Surveying a Lake Watershed - Data Collection Forms (MS Word)
- Massachusetts Volunteer Monitor's Guidebook to Quality Assurance Project Plans (PDF)
Cover letter for Volunteer Monitors' Guidebook to Quality Assurance Project Plans. October 2001.
- Massachusetts Volunteer Monitor's Guidebook to Quality Assurance Project Plans (PDF) file size 2MB
Massachusetts supplement to US EPA's guide for water-quality monitoring volunteers. October 2001.
- Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring: Annual Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Summit, November 22, 2013 file size 7MB
file size 8MB
An overview of ways in which volunteer monitoring group activities result in improved water quality and quantity, habitat, swimming and boating, using real-life examples from volunteers in Central Massachusetts. Activities are presented in the context of their nexus with DEP programs (where one exists), as well as with other state and federal agency programs. Non-programmatic actions are also described. November 2013.
- Integrating SMART Monitoring into DEP Programs file size 3MB
file size 7MB
An overview of monitoring program goals; the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional DWM monitoring activities; and the fundamentals of the SMART program. Also, suggestions for ways in which volunteers can help meet programmatic goals to which they are particularly well-suited at the local time and space scale. November 2013.
- US EPA: Volunteer Monitor's Guide to Quality Assurance Project Plans
Encouraging and facilitating the development of volunteer QAPPs.
Massachusetts Inland Volunteer Monitoring General Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP)
- Massachusetts Inland Volunteer Monitoring General Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP)
file size 1MB
This document contains baseline requirements for various levels of data collection in water quality monitoring projects for inland water bodies. Any group performing the types of monitoring activities described in the QAPP can adopt this document as their project plan. December 2008.
- Example Field Data Sheets: Estuaries (PDF)
- Example Field Data Sheets: Rivers (PDF)
- Example Field Data Sheets: Lakes (PDF)