Water Quality Monitoring

Millers River Watershed CouncilThe health of the river system is studied through water quality monitoring. MRWC conducts a variety of monitoring programs to determine the condition of the rivers in the Miller basin. This information informs the council and the public on recreational health and health for wildlife and the ecosystem.

MassDEP occasionally monitors the basin.  Reports by both DEP and MRWC may be found in resource materials. MRWC studies:

MRWC releases 2014 Bacteria Sampling Report. We are pleased to share our 2014 Report with the watershed community. We sampled 9 sites and in general the river continues to present itself as a great place to explore.  Other MRWC reports can be found on our “Resource” page under – About the Watershed.


Bacteria In 2011, MRWC instituted a bacteria monitoring program at select locations on the Millers and Otter Rivers. Due to a lack of existing data, the need for this was quite clear, particularly since MRWC was embarking on a new Blue Trails program to promote recreation and stewardship. Nine volunteers came forward and helped make the start of this program a success. All volunteers received training in proper sampling techniques, and bi-weekly sampling began on June 14, 2011 and ran through September 6. In all we conducted seven sampling events at nine sampling sites on the Millers and Otter Rivers.

2011 Sampling Sites - Millers and Otter Rivers

2011 Sampling Sites – Millers and Otter Rivers

Volunteers also noted temperature and other site conditions observed during the sampling events. Weather conditions within 48 hours of sampling events were recorded to measure the effects of stormwater runoff.

Sampling for bacteria

A volunteer samples the Millers River for bacteria

This first (pilot) sampling year was a strong success. Volunteer samplers did well and there were few complications. This experience will inform and guide the enhancement of MRWC’s monitoring program as we look to expand the number of monitoring sites, and encourage more people to explore the Watershed and its rivers.  The data from the 2011 sampling season offers a number of clear interpretations.  Both a summary and a full report are available.

Volunteer training for BMI sampling

Volunteer training session for BMI sampling, Moss Brook, Orange

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Benthic Macroinvertebrate (BMI).  Benthic macroinvertebrates (BMI) are aquatic insects, such as mayflies, stoneflies,  caddisflies, and others that live in the bottom layer (substrate) of the river. They are a keen indicator of river health as they are sensitive to water quality and habitat quality. Since 2005, MRWC and local volunteers have monitored local rivers at several sites and have collected four years worth of monitoring data. This information is now being collected into a Summary Report that will be made available in 2012 to local officials, the public and other watershed stakeholders. A report on the 2005 pilot sampling program, including an Executive Summary, is currently available.

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pH sampling in Royalston

pH sampling in Royalston

General Water Chemistry.  For many years, volunteers have collected acid rain samples at various streams and ponds in the Millers River Watershed and throughout the state as part of the Acid Rain Monitoring (ARM) Project. Waterbodies in Millers River watershed tend to be somewhat acidic to start with, due to geology, and have less natural buffering capacity against the  effects of acid rain.

The Acid Rain Monitoring Project has a searchable database of acid rain monitoring results spanning many years, that is searchable by town or watershed. UMass has published a document on Acid Rain Sensitivity that contains more useful information.

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