URI Watershed Watch Analyses

Analyses currently included in the URIWW program:

  • Water clarity (Secchi depth transparency) is determined weekly by program volunteers using a Secchi disk and a view tube. These easy to perform measurements can be used to assess seasonal and/or long term trends in lake water clarity and indicate the same trends in terms of water quality and eutrophication.
  • Algal density (chlorophyll-a) is determined from samples which are collected, processed and frozen biweekly by program volunteers. These processed samples are analyzed for chlorophyll content in URI Watershed Watch analytical laboratories. These measurements can be used to assess nutrient enrichment and eutrophication. They complement the Secchi depth information.
  • Dissolved oxygen is determined biweekly by program volunteers using field kits. The analysis is performed on water samples collected from a depth of 1 meter above the bottom of the lake or river. These measurements can be used as an indicator of eutrophication and the overall health of an aquatic ecosystem.
  • Water temperature is measured weekly at the surface, and biweekly at depth by volunteers using thermometers.
  • Alkalinity and pH are analyzed in the URI Watershed Watch laboratories from water collection event samples. They are used to monitor the acidification status of water bodies.
  • Nutrients (total and dissolved phosphorus, ammonia, total and nitrate-nitrogen) are analyzed in the URI Watershed Watch laboratories from tri-season water collection samples. These parameters are used to assess the water bodies degree of nutrient enrichment, or eutrophication. These measurements complement the Secchi depth and chlorophyll content measurements.
  • Bacteria (enterococci and fecal coliform in marine water) are analyzed in the URI Watershed Watch laboratories from water samples collected in sterile bottles. These analyses screen for suitability for recreational water uses including shellfishing, and may indicate sewage contamination.

Water Quality Analyses performed by URI Watershed Watch primarily provide information on:

  • nutrient enrichment (eutrophication)
  • lake acidification
  • bacterial contamination (for water contact and/or recreational purposes)

Routine analyses do not directly screen for most industrial pollutants or pesticides. However, the analyses performed may indicate abnormal water quality conditions. In special circumstances additional analyses can be arranged in conjunction with regularly scheduled analyses.

Data Quality

The URI Watershed Watch program incorporates procedures and protocols recommended and approved by national organizations to ensure that monitoring results accurately reflect the conditions of the sampled water bodies. Results from laboratory staff and volunteers are regularly checked against known standards and quality control samples. State-of-the-art research grade instruments are generally used, permitting high resolution and excellent detection limits. Specific methods of analyses and limits of detection are available upon reques