URI Watershed Watch Monitoring Overview

Water Quality Monitoring
Volunteer Requirements
  • Water quality monitoring requires a time commitment of one to two midday hours per week. Volunteers choose the day of the week that is most convenient for them.
  • The monitoring season extends from late April to October, and generally can not be started mid-season. Volunteers need not have any prior experience in water quality monitoring.
  • Access to a canoe, kayak, or boat is essential for lake and pond monitoring since volunteers must provide the means to get to their monitoring locations, which are typically the deepest part of the lake, or mid-stream for rivers.
Monitoring Sites

We work with local organizations to identify monitoring sites. Our goal is to have a minimum of three sites per watershed or system in order to get a fuller understanding of impacts to a particular area. We also ask for a committment of at least three years for new sites so that weather variations and other natural background “noise” can be reduced when assessing conditions. These criteria means that the stream or small pond in your backyard may not be a site for which we are seeking volunteers, but we are happy to discuss it with you. Our list of potential sites (existing and new) for 2013 can be found by clicking here.

New Volunteer Training

Volunteers need not have any prior experience in water quality monitoring. Volunteers receive both classroom and field training. Training sessions are generally held in April. Volunteers are provided with a detailed monitoring procedures manual and all the necessary monitoring equipment and supplies.

Monitoring schedule

A monitoring schedule specific to the type of waterbody being monitored (lake, river, salt pond, etc.) is distributed prior to the start of the season. The schedule indicates the dates of the three levels of water quality monitoring. Weekly measurements are made of water clarity and surface temperature on lakes, ponds and some marine sites. These measurements take about 15 minutes, not including travel time to the mid-lake location. Because of the influence that the sun has, these measurements must be done midday (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.). The results are mailed to URI on pre-stamped postcards provided to the volunteers by Watershed Watch. Additional bi-weekly water monitoring for lakes includes collection and processing of water samples for later chlorophyll analysis, as well as measurement of deeper water temperature. Volunteers on certain locations also measure the dissolved oxygen content of their location. These measurements are made using provided field kits, and constitute the bulk of monitoring at most river and marine sites. On designated water collection days, usually 3 – 6 periods spanning the monitoring season, all volunteers collect a set of water samples and immediately bring them to the Watershed Watch laboratories at URI. On these water collection days volunteers perform additional quality assurance tests on water samples provided by URIWW. They also receive replacement equipment and supplies as needed, and get an opportunity to meet with other volunteers and to receive additional ecological information.


$600 per lake, bay and salt pond monitoring site per year, or $500 per stream or river site. Site registration fees are generally paid by the local sponsor, not the volunteer monitor. This fee covers all training, equipment, analyses, data management and reporting, and the quality control needed to meet Rhode Island Laboratory Certification.