Near-Real Time Monitoring of Inland Suburban Waterways: Application to Three Critical Environmental Issues Facing the North Shore/Metro Boston

EPA Grant Number: R828582
Title: Near-Real Time Monitoring of Inland Suburban Waterways: Application to Three Critical Environmental Issues Facing the North Shore/Metro Boston
Investigators: Pancost, David , Hopkinson, Charles S , Loder, Theodore , Vörösmarty, Charles J.
Current Investigators: Pancost, David , Bade, Don , Hopkinson, Charles S , Lantagne, Daniele , Mackin, Kerry , O'Connor, Beth , Robinson, Keith , Vörösmarty, Charles J. , Wollheim, Wil
Institution: Town of Ipswich , University of New Hampshire - Main Campus
Current Institution: Town of Ipswich , United States Geological Survey [USGS] , University of New Hampshire - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: December 1, 2000 through November 30, 2002
Project Amount: $321,621
RFA: Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Air , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Throughout much of New England, urban sprawl is accelerating rapidly while it remains difficult to formulate a coherent picture of such change, due in part to a lack of timely and understandable environmental information. As a result, public perception of development pressure remains highly fragmented. Moreover, environmental managers are forced to make decisions in the face of these rapidly changing conditions but with generally incomplete knowledge. There is a high level of public interest concerning the suburbanizing environment of North Shore/Metro Boston. Local citizen groups are already engaged in environmental monitoring of the two major tributaries which empty into Plum Island Sound estuary, the Ipswich and Parker Rivers. In addition, commonwealth, federal agency and research/academic groups have carried out focused studies on these watersheds.


The proposed work assembles a consortium of eleven partner groups drawn from the public, academic, and private sectors. We seek through this partnership to link several ongoing, but currently uncoordinated, environmental monitoring efforts. The existing environmental data sets will serve as a historical benchmark by which to assess future change detected by the near real-time monitoring system that we plan to install in year one of our project. We will use these pooled data resources with models and World Wide Web tools to observe the changing character of the Ipswich and Parker watersheds. Although our focus is on monitoring, the consortium also has the technical expertise to interpret and draw scientifically sound conclusions from the emerging data sets. An active public outreach program to inform citizens of the availability of this information and how better to use it is built formally into the proposal.

The focal point for this work will be a geospatial web-based information system, the Ipswich/Parker Suburban Watershed Channel (I/PS-WATCH), akin to the "Weather Channel" but reporting on suburban watershed environmental variables. The interface will represent extension of an existing system (see: for prototype). I/PS-WATCH will be applied to three sub-projects, already identified by the partners as of high public relevance, cast in near real-time:

(1) Improved early warning of stormwater runoff, coliform inputs, and shellfish bed closure;

(2) Assessment of inland fisheries habitat during low-flow conditions reflected by water level/flow, temperature, dissolved oxygen; and

(3) Inventory of nutrient loads (N, P, Si) in lakes, wetlands, and river reaches.

Data sets collected from these activities will be assembled, error checked, and shared by the data partners. A series of higher-level visualization products will be made available to the public through the web site, including maps, animations, and summaries of threshold violations. We will post information on shellfish bed closures, critical nutrient load "hot spots", at-risk fish habitat, local weather, hydrology swimming and boating conditions, and public health (coliform) alerts. "Report cards" on the condition of the watersheds will be issued together with special news reports.

Expected Results:

Outreach will be pursued through a series of meetings, training workshops, and public forums. We anticipate reciprocal and direct benefits to the general public and project study team as we work together to develop the data repository and assist each other in interpreting the results. The overall focus of this proposal - monitoring and interpreting the state of suburbanized inland waterways for hydrologic and water quality conditions - with concurrent use of innovative technology and training is purposely intended to foster informed public awareness and decision-making on watershed management issues facing our communities. Our partnership, which involves lay public sampling volunteers, local town government, state government, academic and research institutes, and two Federal environmental agencies, will help to ensure the sustainability of I/PS-WATCH beyond the requested funding period.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 16 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

water quality, sprawl, interactive information system, Region 1, Boston Harbor, marine, fish, shellfish, hydrocarbons, bacteriology, North Shore, Massachusetts, outreach, geo-spatial, nutrient transport model., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Air, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Nutrients, Hydrology, Environmental Chemistry, Chemistry, HAPS, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Monitoring/Modeling, Wet Weather Flows, Atmosphere, Mercury, Pathology, ecological risk assessment, environmental monitoring, fate and transport, nutrient supply, dissolved organic matter, nutrient transport, aquatic ecosystem, EMPACT, hydrologic dynamics, hydrological stability, hydrocarbon, inland suburban waterways, public information, runoff, geo-spatial internet system, ecosystem evaluation, mechanistic-based watershed modeling, public reporting, pooled data resources, community based, web site development, hydrocarbons, water quality, nutrient cycling, nutrient transport model, public health alerts, storm drainage, stormwater runoff

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001 Progress Report
  • Final Report