Final Report: 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 , Bade, Don , Hopkinson, Charles S , Lantagne, Daniele , Mackin, Kerry , O'Connor, Beth , Robinson, Keith , Vörösmarty, Charles J. , Wollheim, Wil
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


The objectives of this research project were to: (1) develop the Ipswich Parker Suburban Watershed Channel (IPSWATCH) to provide via a Web interface real-time monitoring information, archival data, maps, and other pertinent information to increase public awareness of environmental conditions in the Ipswich River and Parker River watersheds; (2) collect and analyze water quality information that affects the following water-related issues: fish habitat quality as determined by flow and water quality conditions, eutrophication caused by land use change and land management activities, and high mercury levels in fish; and (3) create a dialog among scientists, local and state officials, volunteer organizations, and concerned citizens to increase awareness and better address environmental problems in the Ipswich and Parker River watersheds.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Technical Summary

During the course of this project, a number of activities helped us achieve our objectives. These activities included: (1) maintaining continuous and real-time water quality monitoring equipment, including an extended period beyond that budgeted for this grant; (2) maintaining a strong working partnership between the academic groups (Marine Biological Laboratory [MBL] and the University of New Hampshire [UNH]) and watershed association sampling programs to enhance nutrient monitoring; (3) initiating the monitoring of mercury deposition, an issue of increasing concern in the watershed; (4) compiling archival environmental information from a number of groups; (5) developing the IPSWATCH Web Page to disseminate information; and (6) holding numerous partner meetings to establish the monitoring program and the IPSWATCH Web Site. In addition, we prepared or are preparing several peer-review research articles summarizing the scientific results of the project (Wollheim, et al., submitted, 2004; Pellerin, et al., in preparation, 2004).

Real-time and Continuous Monitoring of Environmental Conditions. This project supported, in whole or in part, a number of analyses regarding the hydrology, biogeochemistry, and aquatic habitat of the watershed. We found that diversions and climate change decreased the percentage of rainfall exported from the watershed in rivers. Major findings from the results of the continuous monitoring program included an increase in runoff and conductivity in the urban site compared to the forested site. Annual runoff was more than double in the suburban site compared to the forested site. At the same time, nutrient exports were an order of magnitude greater. Storms were much flashier in the developed site, showing interesting dynamics resulting from first flushes off of impervious surfaces. Many of the results of this comparison are summarized in Wollheim, et al. (submitted, 2004) and Pellerin, et al. (in preparation, 2004).

The quality of the YSI monitoring data was assured by frequent calibration throughout the deployment period. The dissolved oxygen probe fell below the recommended charge several times; these data were not used. A constant depth at each site is necessary to calculate discharge using the rating curve. The elevation of the installation hardware was surveyed upon first deployment and resurveyed in late spring 2002 to ensure that elevation remained constant during the winter. No differences were found. Rating curves were based on discharge versus stage relationships developed during the 2001-2003 period. The relationships in the headwater catchments were excellent (r2 > 0.96) over the range for which we had measurements. Our rating curve, however, did not include measurements at extremely high flows, for which we provide an initial extrapolation. Therefore, flows above a certain stage height are approximate. All of this is documented in the metadata files that are provided with the data sets. Although the rating curves were good for the headwater streams, beaver activity changed the flow regime in the vicinity of our two probes in the larger stream systems (Ipswich River and Fish Brook). As a result, inadequate rating curves precluded flow estimates from these sites.

Spatially Extensive Nutrient Monitoring. The monthly nutrient sampling conducted at a number of headwater sites of varying land use, as well as along the mainstem of the rivers and major tributaries, provided useful results. Nutrients in headwater stations provide a clear link between land use/land management and nutrient levels in streams (Wollheim, et al., submitted, 2004). This paper reports that on an annual basis, either residential area or population density explained much of the variability in dissolved inorganic nitrogen exports from headwater catchments. Water runoff also was much higher in urban catchments. As a result, we found that N retention (1 - N exports/N loading) declined with increasing impervious surface area (Wollheim, et al., submitted, 2004). This has important implications for water quality as development continues to increase. Additional analyses of these data sets are planned as part of a future manuscript. Nitrate, ammonium, phosphate, and silicate were determined using a Lachat QuickChem autoanalyser following standard procedures, with quality assurance monitored by running standard curves daily and checking standards interspersed throughout the run.

Sampling for Escherichia coli, total suspended solids, and fecal coliform wase conducted to establish the effectiveness of a stormwater treatment system installed in the North Main Street area of the Town of Ipswich. The pollutants from the stormwater runoff were carried from outfall into the Ipswich River, where shellfish harvesting and fish spawning were being adversely affected. Preliminary results from the postconstruction sampling show a significant reduction in the pollutants, indicating a positive effect of the treatment system on fish habitat. Final analysis of the results will be forthcoming in a report by Alethia Environmental.

Mercury Deposition Monitoring. The atmospheric mercury monitoring investigation conducted by our project partner, the U.S. Geological Survey, found preliminary results showing concentrations of total mercury in wet deposition during 2002, ranging from 2-20 ng/L at the four sites. Median concentrations of mercury in the three urban areas around Boston, MA, were 8.8, 7.2, and 7.8 ng/L, respectively, compared to 5.7 ng/L in rural New Hampshire. These results suggest that localized urban emission sources may have a significant effect on concentrations of mercury in rainfall in New England and may result in variable deposition patterns on a subregional scale.

Development of the Historical Data Archive. A number of data sets were compiled as part of the collaborative effort of the project partnership, including: (1) water quality information from the watershed associations through 2002; (2) nutrient data collected by the watershed associations, MBL, and UNH through 2003; (3) fecal coliform data collected by various groups prior to 2002; and (4) continuous water quality monitoring data between 2001 and 2003. The data sets are available on our Web site ( Exit ). A significant effort was made toward the compilation of fecal coliform data from a variety of local sources. This information was obtained from the various groups that have conducted this monitoring and then compiled and georeferenced into a standard format. The resulting data sets were made available on our data download page. This will greatly enhance the use of this information for future studies pertaining to fecal coliform issues in the watershed.

The IPSWATCH Web Site. The IPSWATCH Web Site was developed as a collaborative effort of all of the partner organizations. The focus of the site was to make water quality information available, provide an interface for interpreting the information, and educate citizens interested in water quality issues. An IPSWATCH brochure was developed to publicize the Web site and raise awareness about watershed-related issues. Nearly 3,000 brochures promoting the IPSWATCH Web Site were distributed during 2003 in libraries, town halls, and places of recreation in more than a dozen towns throughout the watersheds. Copies will continue to be available through the Town of Ipswich Conservation Commission office until they run out, and the Web site will continue to operate. Some of the features of the Web site are automatically updated, and project partners can gain access through a login system to post news, alerts, meetings, and reports relevant to the watersheds.

Project Partner Collaboration. A major benefit of this project was the interaction between academics, state managers, and watershed association volunteers. Many of the data sets collected under this project would have been impossible to obtain without the help of the numerous volunteers of the watershed association. These collaborations increased the feasibility of certain studies where manpower is the limiting factor. For example, the monthly sampling conducted by a combination of Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) and UNH researchers allowed collection of up to 70 distributed samples a day, allowing a single-day snapshot of conditions throughout the watershed and avoiding potential complicating factors that might occur if sampling was distributed over several days because of storms.

UNH and MBL personnel also participated in IRWA annual meetings and the Ipswich River Restoration conference, presenting information that was collected under this grant. This clearly demonstrates the usefulness of partnerships between different stakeholders.

Journal Articles on this Report : 2 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 16 publications 4 publications in selected types All 2 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Pellerin B, Wollheim W, Bolster C, Feng X, Vorosmarty C. Evaluation and application of electrical conductivity as a tracer for hydrograph separation studies in urban watersheds. Hydrological Processes. R828582 (Final)
not available
Journal Article Wollheim WM, Pellerin BA, Vorosmarty CJ, Hopkinson CS. N retention in urbanizing headwater catchments. Ecosystems 2005;8(8):871-884. R828582 (Final)
  • Full-text: SpringerLink Full Text
  • Abstract: SpringerLink Abstract
  • Other: SpringerLink PDF
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    water quality, sprawl, interactive information system, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, EPA Region 1, Boston Harbor, marine, fish, shellfish, hydrocarbon, hydrocarbons, bacteriology, North Shore, Massachusetts, MA, outreach, geospatial, nutrient transport model, ecosystem protection, environmental exposure and risk, toxics, water, chemistry, ecology, environmental chemistry, HAPS, hydrology, mercury, monitoring, modeling, nutrients, pathology, wet weather flows, Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking, EMPACT, aquatic ecosystem, community based, dissolved organic matter, ecological risk assessment, ecosystem evaluation, environmental monitoring, fate and transport, geospatial Internet system, hydrologic dynamics, hydrological stability, inland suburban waterways, mechanistic-based watershed modeling, nutrient cycling, nutrient supply, nutrient transport, pooled data resources, public health alerts, public information, public reporting, real-time monitoring, runoff, storm drainage, stormwater runoff, drinking water, watersheds, precipitation, chemical transport, ecological effects, human health, heavy metals, pathogens, discharge, aquatic, sustainable development, analytical, northeast, atmospheric mercury deposition, ecosystem, indicators., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Toxics, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Nutrients, Environmental Chemistry, Chemistry, climate change, HAPS, Air Pollution Effects, Monitoring/Modeling, Wet Weather Flows, Atmosphere, Mercury, Pathology, ecological risk assessment, aquatic ecosystem, EMPACT, hydrologic dynamics, environmental monitoring, dissolved organic matter, fate and transport, hydrological stability, nutrient supply, nutrient transport, inland suburban waterways, hydrocarbon, ecosystem evaluation, mechanistic-based watershed modeling, runoff, geo-spatial internet system, public information, community based, public reporting, pooled data resources, web site development, water quality, nutrient cycling, hydrocarbons, storm drainage, stormwater runoff, nutrient transport model, public health alerts

    Relevant Websites: Exit Exit Exit Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2001 Progress Report