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Guide Water Quality Monitoring for Volunteers

MassDEP welcomes data from the public to help us develop management plans for our watersheds. Find guidelines for data collection here.

Table of Contents

Volunteer Surface Water Monitoring

Surface water monitoring by volunteers (Watershed associations, stream teams, school groups, and individuals) is valuable to MassDEP's watershed management approach. High-quality data from volunteer programs supports our efforts to assess surface waters, manage non-point sources of pollution (NPS) and calculate total daily maximum loads (TMDLs).

Benefits may include:

  • Greater Stewardship: Volunteer monitoring can inspire citizens and groups to protect their high-quality waterbodies and habitats and restore those with problems.
  • Increased Awareness: Watershed-level information gathered by volunteers is especially useful in finding and reducing local sources of NPS pollution (e.g., carried by runoff from parking lots, construction sites, farms, etc.).
  • More waterbodies monitored: With nearly 10,000 miles of rivers and streams, and over 3,000 lakes and ponds in Massachusetts, state and federal agencies don't have enough resources to sample all of our waters. Volunteers collecting high-quality data can increase the number of waterbodies that MassDEP can assess, protect, and restore.

In order for MassDEP to use volunteer and other "external" data (i.e., data not collected by MassDEP), we require that the following criteria are met:

  • Monitoring is conducted under a MassDEP-approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). Each QAPP includes program specifics, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for field sampling and laboratory analyses, and other details. Guidance on how to develop a volunteer QAPP can be found below.
  • Samples are analyzed by a qualified laboratory. These have proven capabilities for the selected analyses, well-documented SOPs, and a QA plan. MassDEP's Wall Experiment Station maintains a list of Certified Laboratories. MassDEP prefers that samples be analyzed by a state-certified lab.
  • Information is documented in a citable report. In addition to data, program reports should include a discussion of quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) results, as well as data management.

Questions regarding volunteer water quality monitoring can be directed to Therese Beaudoin (therese.beaudoin@mass.gov) or Suzanne Flint (suzanne.flint@mass.gov).

Additional Resources for Volunteer Surface Water Monitoring

Volunteer Resources

Additional Resources for Volunteer Resources

Guidance on Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP)

A Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) is a planning document for a specific monitoring project or program that describes the quality-control elements to be implemented that will help ensure that the data collected will be of known and documented quality to meet project or program needs. Implementation of an approved QAPP is generally required for any monitoring data used by MassDEP.

Bacterial Monitoring:

The Bacterial Monitoring General QAPP provided in the link below is intended to serve organizations participating in the MassDEP’s Water Quality Monitoring Grant Program. To adopt the Bacterial Monitoring General QAPP, the following submittals are required:

  • QAPP adoption form (in Appendix I of the general QAPP);
  • Project-specific Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP) using the template provided; and
  • All project-specific field and lab Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

Please note that recipients of MassDEP Monitoring Grants must have a DEP-approved QAPP (either adoption of the General QAPP/SAP or a program- or project-specific QAPP) signed by the grantee and the appropriate MassDEP agency representatives before proceeding with project implementation.

General Water Quality Monitoring Projects:

The "Massachusetts Inland Volunteer Monitoring General Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP)" and "Massachusetts Volunteer Coastal Monitoring General Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP)" provided in the links below cover a broader range of water-quality analyses for various levels of data collection in water-quality monitoring projects for inland and coastal water bodies. Any group performing the types of monitoring activities described in these QAPPs may adopt these QAPPs, in combination with specific sampling and analysis information (SAP) and specific field and lab SOPs, as applicable.

QAPPs, SAPs, SOPs, and adoption forms may be submitted to suzanne.flint@mass.gov for review and approval.

Additional Resources for Guidance on Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP)

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