By HOLLY RAMER Associated Press
July 14, 2013 – 2:31 pm EDT
CONCORD, New Hampshire — More than 50 volunteers will be simultaneously collecting water samples from 87 New Hampshire rivers and streams next week as part of a research project that organizers believe is the first of its kind in the state.
The project’s leaders at Plymouth State University hope that by taking snapshots of water quality, they can provide a better understanding of the state’s various water resources and how they respond to housing development and other types of land use.
“We have pretty good data around the state, but it’s often collected at different times,” said Mark Green, an assistant professor of hydrology who developed the project. “So if you coordinate a lot of people to dip a bottle at a similar time, that’s the best way to compare the way different land uses impact water quality.”
That’s important, he said, because water quality has a significant economic impact in the state.
“It makes it a great place to live, but it also brings in a lot of tourism,” he said.
Using supplies and instructions provided by Plymouth State, volunteers will collect filtered water samples from their sites, which range from spots where rivers begin in the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire to where the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers cross into Massachusetts. The samples will then be frozen for storage and sent to a laboratory, which will determine basic measures of water quality. That includes determining concentrations of phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon, as well as evaluating acidity, turbidity and clarity.
Researchers also will look at ions that contribute to electrical conductivity, which will help with a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation. That research involves sensors that continuously record temperature, electrical conductivity and river height at the sampling sites.
Green said those sensors provide rough information about whether road salt, for example, is getting into the water and affecting quality. The water sampling project will provide more detailed information to explore that issue, he said.
Data from the July 16 sampling, along with previous samplings in May and June, will be analyzed in the fall and shared with state agencies, resource managers, researchers and educators. While the information will be most sought after by scientists, Green said researchers also want to share the findings in a way that makes sense to the volunteers, many of whom were motivated to participate because they care about rivers and streams in their area.
“A big goal of ours is to be able to communicate this back to interested citizens,” he said. “We want to be able to provide information so they know where they sit relative to the rest of the state with regards to water quality.”