Characterization of Water Quality in the Sakonnet River, Rhode Island

Science Center Objects

Sections of Narragansett Bay and its eastern arm, the Sakonnet River, are considered impaired for shell fishing, aquatic habitat and recreational use by the State of Rhode Island Rhode Island. The degradation of aquatic habitat and water quality in the western portions of Narragansett Bay has been and continues to be closely studied. However, there is comparably limited information available in the Sakonnet River.

Seasonal algal and nuisance plant growth, and incidences of acutely low dissolved oxygen have raised concerns about the ecological health of this important coastal resource. Some areas of the Sakonnet River are already permanently closed to shellfishing due to elevated bacteria concentrations.

The primary cause of these impairments is likely elevated concentrations of nutrients and other constituents from. Watersheds draining to Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet River have a long surface water and groundwater sources industrial history dating back to colonial times. As population centers have grown, so have industrial and commercial development. Along with this substantial growth has come many changes in water use and new sources of discharge. New information is needed to better understand how point and diffuse sources of nutrients and other constituents negatively impact the water quality of the Sakonnet River.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and US EPA Region I developed a sampling and data collection program to better inform regional stakeholders about the water quality conditions of the Sakonnet River.


Study Objectives

  1. Establish three surface water and two bottom water continuous water-quality monitoring stations in the Sakonnet River;
  2. Conduct three surface water quality spatial mapping surveys in conjunction with vertical profiles of water quality from 16 stations;