Real-Time Water Quality Monitoring and Modeling for Equitable Recreation on the Mystic River

EPA Grant Number: R829338
Title: Real-Time Water Quality Monitoring and Modeling for Equitable Recreation on the Mystic River
Investigators: Deshpande, Vithal V. , Baise, Laurie , Brukilacchio, Lisa , Chapra, Steve , Durant, John , Kirshen, Paul , Minardi, Lee , Perez, Grace
Current Investigators: Deshpande, Vithal V. , Baise, Laurie , Brukilacchio, Lisa , Chapra, Steve , Durant, John , Hammett, Nancy , Kirshen, Paul , Minardi, Lee , Perez, Grace
Institution: City of Somerville , Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Science , Mystic River Watershed Association , Tufts University
Current Institution: City of Somerville , Mystic River Watershed Association , Tufts University
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: October 1, 2001 through September 30, 2003
Project Amount: $427,969
RFA: Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Statistics , Water , Ecosystems , Air , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


City of Somerville, Massachusetts, in collaboration with Tufts University and the Mystic River Watershed Association, proposes this project that combines advanced technology for real-time water quality and meteorological monitoring with sampling of bacterial levels to develop a model that anticipates river conditions in the Mystic River Watershed of Massachusetts, especially after heavy rains. The real-time data, water quality indices and model-generated water quality predictions will be made available to the public via the internet as well as color-coded flags at riverfront sites. The predictive model will enhance standard water quality monitoring by providing a way to anticipate bacterial levels that ordinarily require 24 hours to assess, leaving citizens in this dense and heavily polluted river basin with inadequate information about water safety. In a setting where river use has been on the rise, despite polluted conditions, this project offers potential river users a new level of information and informed choice.


The project objectives are:

  1. To collect data on water quality indicators—fecal coliform, enterococcus, DO, turbidity—along with data on depth, temperature, pH, conductivity and meteorological conditions in real-time to develop an "early warning" water quality forecasting model.
  2. Present real-time and timely water quality data and information to the public using the Internet, color-coded flags, a variety of other printed and visual materials in several languages, and regular advisories in local print and broadcast media. The presentations will interpret the data into indices useful for everyday decisions about contact with the water.
  3. Make recreational users and watershed residents aware of the real-time and timely data, indices and model available through this project. The focus is on reaching a large segment of the public, including those without easy access to the internet, to stimulate interest in finding and using the information from the project.
  4. Inform watershed residents about the connections between human behavior and water quality through educational efforts that emphasize the value of this information for personal decisions and community health.


The project uses an innovative application of advanced real-time and timely data collection to create a predictive model for water quality combined with extensive outreach to familiarize the public with the information generated and how to use it.

Expected Results:

We expect the project to have numerous benefits including: a novel and highly transferable model for use in similar urban settings nationwide; an excellent data base for future modeling and decision-making; significantly increased quantity, timeliness, and usefulness of information on water quality available to residents; an enhanced profile for the river, both in terms of knowledge about its condition and in terms of public awareness of the factors involved in river health; greater public understanding of the connections between water quality issues and their own behavior; and a prototype for potential collaboration among local urban government, a large private research university, and a community-based watershed organization.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

media, watersheds, precipitation, health effects, bacteria, coliform, public policy, decision making, Northeast, Massachusetts, MA, EPA Region 1, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Monitoring/Modeling, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Environmental Monitoring, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Watersheds, health effects, remote sensing, water resources, wetlands, aquatic ecosystem, bacteria, community-based approach, fecal contamination, sediment transport, stream ecosystems, community water quality information system, recreational water , aquatic ecosystems, community outreach, community tracking, water quality, ecology assessment models, water management options, watershed assessment, ecological models, watershed restoration, land management, river ecosystems

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002 Progress Report
  • Final Report