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December 6, 2022

The USGS New England Water Science Center has created an informational brochure about the current water-quality monitoring taking place in the Merrimack River watershed within Massachusetts. The brochure outlines the project’s goals, site locations and data collection methods.

“This project has water-quality sites located in heavily trafficked public areas, such as the boat launch in Salisbury, Massachusetts,” said USGS hydrologic technician and project lead Kaitlin Laabs. “We felt a brochure could act as a visual aid to use when explaining the project to members of the public. In addition, we made sure to include links in the brochure to help people navigate to applicable web pages.”

USGS boat crew on Merrimack River, Massachusetts
Two USGS scientists traveling by boat to estuary sampling and monitoring stations, Merrimack River, Massachusetts

Conducted in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), water samples are being collected from 12 different sites within the southern portion of the Merrimack River watershed. These locations include two sites on the Merrimack River, nine sites on its tributaries, and one site within the estuary. The water samples are tested for nutrients, metals and bacteria. 

The purpose of this water-quality monitoring effort is to provide MassDEP with water quality data needed to see if the watershed is meeting federal Clean Water Act and Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards. The data may also be used to support the state’s revision of its dissolved oxygen water-quality criteria in marine and coastal waters.

The water samples will be analyzed for nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen. An excess of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, can lead to an overabundance of algae and aquatic vegetation that upon decay, reduces dissolved oxygen levels in the water, which can result in fish kills. The nutrient data collected during the project will be used to develop a model that will estimate nitrogen loads in the Merrimack River. The results of this model can be used to help MassDEP establish long-term watershed management strategies.

This project began in April 2020 and is expected to run until October 2024.

Click here to check out the new informational brochure.

Want to learn more about this project? Click here.


A map displaying data collection site locations in Merrimack River watershed, Massachusetts
A map displaying water quality data collection site locations in Merrimack River watershed, Massachusetts

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