Water Monitoring in the Headwaters

We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded our second Water Quality Monitoring Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protect!

The Farmington River is the longest tributary to the Connecticut River, coursing 81 miles from Massachusetts headwaters to mouth. There are 33 towns in the Farmington River Watershed covering 609 square miles of land in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Approximately 100,000 acres of the watershed lies within Massachusetts, with the remaining 285,000 acres in Connecticut. Headwaters for both main branches of the River (East Branch and West Branch) originate in southwestern Massachusetts. The watershed in Massachusetts is approximately 85% forested and hosts a plethora of wildlife including the peregrine falcon, a recovering endangered species, as well as numerous fish species, including Atlantic salmon. The Farmington River is home to twelve species of mussels — every mussel species native to southern New England occurs in this one river, and it actually gives the Farmington one more species than the Connecticut River itself.

People flock to the Farmington River Watershed for its vast recreational opportunities. The Farmington River is fished by anglers from around the world. Swimming and boating are common along the river and on the many lakes and ponds, including the heavily used Otis Reservoir. Nonpoint source runoff is the primary water quality concern in the watershed. Water quality in some watershed streams is particularly important to maintain since Massachusetts contains the headwaters for the Greater Hartford drinking water supply, serving 400,000 people.

FRWA has been conducting water monitoring in the Connecticut portion of the Farmington River Watershed since 2004. FRWA monitors a total of 39 locations for bacteria in the Farmington River Watershed in Connecticut. All of our data is shared with CT DEEP. We use CT DEEP protocols for vSTEM and RBV, and CT DEEP has copies of our sampling and laboratory protocols for bacteria.

For this project, FRWA is continuing bacteria monitoring in the Farmington River Watershed in Massachusetts at the 17 sites developed in 2019, following our approved QAPP we developed with funding from MassDEP in 2019. This project will enable FRWA to assist MassDEP in increasing the availability of credible bacteria data for the assessment of primary and secondary contact recreation in waters throughout the Massachusetts portion of the Farmington River basin.

The principal objectives of projects are to 1) document high-quality waters for protection and preservation; 2) measure inputs from tributaries to the Farmington River; 3) establish a database for use in documenting future changes in water quality; 4) identify impairments and locate potential preservation & restoration opportunities; 5) educate and involve residents in waterbody protection; 6) inform a cohesive understanding of the entire Farmington River watershed, in MA and CT; and, 7) reveal trends relative to changing climate and precipitation patterns via long term monitoring.

Nonpoint source runoff is the primary water quality concern in the Massachusetts section of the Farmington River Watershed. Bacteria can be a good indicator of nonpoint source pollution, and therefore monitoring Escherichia coli (E. coli) was the logical first step for our Massachusetts monitoring program. Our beautiful Massachusetts headwaters and pristine lakes and ponds are actively utilized for recreation and much of this relatively remote area is under-monitored.

We are looking to establish a baseline of Massachusetts water quality information for FRWA and are particularly focused on Farmington Basin streams that are not being actively monitored and/or are lacking sufficient bacteria data. FRWA uses bacteria (E. coli) monitoring data to:

  1. Document high-quality waters for protection and preservation;
  2. Measure inputs from tributaries to the Farmington River;
  3. Monitor changes in water quality and land use;
  4. Identify impairments;
  5. Locate potential preservation & restoration opportunities; and
  6. Reveal trends relative to changing climate and precipitation patterns via long term monitoring.

Farmington River Watershed Association (FRWA) – $15,000

FRWA will use this grant to purchase bacteria sampling and analysis supplies and equipment and allow the association to continue to conduct biweekly monitoring at 17 sites in the Farmington River watershed.”

Center for Coastal Studies Among MassDEP Water Quality Grant Recipients
Total of $154,145 awarded to 14 organizations…