Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality monitoring plays an important role in keeping watershed residents informed about water quality issues, and informing and inspiring action on behalf of our watershed health. This valuable data has the power to influence pollution reduction actions and shape public policy. You can learn more about the program below. 

Which streams are monitored?

The Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission has created an interactive web map that you can use to explore our watershed, and learn more about FWR's water quality data. Click here to check it out

Friends of the Winooski River has been collecting samples primarily in the capital area and the Winooski River headwaters -- you can read technical reports on these efforts, on the right side of this page.

Friends of the Mad River coordinates the Mad River Watch program, collecting data on swimming holes throughout their subwatershed of the Winooski: click here to learn more. 

The Huntington River Conservation Partnership also monitors swimming areas in their subwatershed: click here to learn more. 

Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District manages the Rethink Runoff Stream Team, supporting outreach efforts for certain Chittenden County municipalities, including water quality monitoring: click here to learn more. 

What pollutants are monitored?

We look at different things at different sites, depending on what concerns are associated with the location. There are a couple of basic resources that identify concerns in streams in Vermont, which are a good starting place for thinking about monitoring. One is the biannual list of "Impaired Waters" which you can look at by clicking here. Another, more specific to the Winooski watershed, is the Tactical Basin Plan for our basin (another word for watershed -- Winooski is Basin 8 in the State's system): click here to read the most recent TBP. 

The most common pollutants of concern in the streams we sample are phosphorus and chloride. 

  • Phosphorus is a mineral nutrient that plants need to grow. It is a pollutant of concern in Lake Champlain, because high levels can result in algal blooms that discourage recreation and can become toxic. Algal blooms can also damage aquatic habitat when the decomposition of dead algae depletes the water of oxygen needed by fish and other aquatic life.  Phosphorus sources include fertilizers, soil erosion, manure, pet and wildlife waste, wastewater, and organic matter.  Since the goal for the Main Lake part of Lake Champlain is 10 ug per liter, streams with concentrations above 10 ug are considered as contributing sources to the lake. 
  • Chloride levels above 230 mg/L in streams can lead to poor health and reduced reproduction of aquatic species, and also limit oxygen availability in lakes and ponds. Chloride sources include road deicing salts, wastewater, and leachate from landfills.
  • We no longer monitor Escherichia coli (E. coli). E. coli is a species of bacteria used as an indicator of fecal contamination (poop!) in rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans.  While most strains of E. coli do not cause disease, they can be associated with other bacteria and viruses that do. The standard for E. coli is a geometric mean of 126 mpn/100mL.  This corresponds to a level in which there is a probability that 32-36 individuals/1000 would get sick from water contact. The higher the level of E. coli in a stream, the higher the risk of a swimmer getting sick. Higher levels generally occur in the first 24-48 hours after it rains. 

Who does the monitoring?

Want to get involved in a great hands-on project? Join our Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring team! Volunteers collect stream samples on a biweekly basis throughout the summer in the Cabot/Marshfield/Plainfield and Barre/Montpelier areas. These samples are then sent to a lab and analyzed to determine E. coli, chloride, alkalinity, phosphorus, nitrogen, and turbidity levels.

Sampling takes about 15 minutes per site, and volunteers can collect samples from one or more sites. No experience necessary and training is provided. We collect samples six times over the course of the summer. Volunteers can choose to sample on one or all of the sampling dates.

Please sign up using the contact form on our website.

Thanks to our water quality monitoring volunteers!   

Emily Ahtunan, Nick, Jay, & Ethan Borlund, Suzanne & Simon Eikenberry, Steve Fiske, Gary Gulka, Kaitlin Hayes, Roger Kokodyniac, Doug LaPointe, David Lowther & Jean, Marisol, & Elli McDowell, Isaac & Jamie Maddox-White, Laura & Mikaela Moore, Lyn and Nancy Munno, Gianna Petito, Julianna Plumber, George Springston, Jen & Indy Roberts, Jeff Schumann, Jason & Miriam Serota-Winston, Jennifer Skinder, Leif Richarson, & Benjamin Richardson-Skinder, Brian Slopey, Jeff Schumann, Janice Walrafen, Bruce Westcott, and Jan Zemba.


Water Quality Monitoring Results


2019 Headwaters Report
2018 Headwaters Report
2017 Headwaters Report
2016 Headwaters Report
2015 Headwaters Report

2007-2014 Available upon request


Four Rivers Reports include sites on North and Stevens Branches, the Dog River and the Winooski 

2019 Four Rivers Report
2018 Four Rivers Report
2017 Four Rivers Report
2016 Four Rivers Report
2015 Four Rivers Report

2010-2014 Available upon request

Chittenden County Stream Team

2015 CCST Report
2014 CCST Report
2013 CCST Report
2012 CCST Report