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. Data collected through such efforts is considered to be external data, i.e., not collected by MassDEP staff.
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. Advocates often use such data 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:
- Implementation of a DWM-approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), including the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be used for field sampling and laboratory analyses. Guidance on developing a volunteer QAPP can be found 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) - see Certified Laboratories .
- 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 Therese Beaudoin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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)
- Integrating SMART Monitoring into MassDEP Programs November 22, 2013 file size 7MB
file size 8MB
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.
- Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring: Annual Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Summit file size 3MB
file size 7MB
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.
- Example Field Data Sheets: Estuaries (PDF)
- Example Field Data Sheets: Rivers (PDF)
- Example Field Data Sheets: Lakes (PDF)
- US EPA: Nonpoint Source Volunteer Monitoring
EPA's volunteer monitoring site with methods manuals and guidance documents. All items are the current version.
Guidance on 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.
- Coastal Water Quality Publications
- External Data Submittals to the Watershed Planning Program
MassDEP welcomes submittal of quality-assured surface water data at any time. This information may be used by DWM-WPP to make decisions regarding surface water quality assessments as required by Sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). This is guidance for the submittal of water quality data to the DWM-WPP by external data providers. External data providers may include volunteer monitoring organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, stream teams, grantees, watershed associations, environmental consultants and others.