Are you interested in the North Country’s lakes and rivers? If so, the Center for the Environment at Plymouth State University (PSU) and NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) are looking for volunteers to help monitor our surface water quality through the state’s Volunteer Lake Assessment Program (VLAP) and Volunteer River Assessment Program (VRAP).
VLAP is a state wide program that relies on volunteers to monitor New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds. Since its inception in 1985, VLAP has grown to include over 180 lakes, with approximately 500 volunteers who sample at least once, but more commonly three times in the summer (once a month in June through August) every year. Of the numerous lakes in the North Country only a small number of these are involved in the VLAP program. VRAP is a similar program focusing on sampling streams and rivers. It was established in 1998 and today has expanded to include many of the major water ways in New Hampshire and the North Country including, the Baker River, the Pemigewasset River, the Ammonoosuc River, and the Israel River, to name a few. VLAP and VRAP participants sample multiple stations along a lake or river and use the data collected over time to judge the health of the waterbody, develop long-term water quality trends, identify pollution sources, and provide solutions to solve problems.
The Center for the Environment is working with DES to expand both VLAP and VRAP in the North Country. Since 2007, the Environmental Research Laboratory has worked with VLAP and VRAP volunteers providing sampling equipment, analyzing water samples, and reporting the results to both DES and volunteers. “We provide a convenient location for volunteers in the North Country and Lakes Region to drop off water samples,” said Aaron Johnson, senior laboratory technician. “Approximately 12 lake and 7 river groups use our laboratory instead of traveling to Concord to drop off samples and we hope to expand the program by encouraging new volunteers to participate.”
“This project was initiated because of a concern for the water quality due to impacts from development pressures and other land use changes,” according to Sara Steiner, NHDES VLAP coordinator.
With more lakes and ponds being actively monitored, state officials can track the health of these water bodies which has a variety of benefits. One of these benefits is the tourism industry in the North Country. According to a DES study, if the lakes, ponds and rivers started declining in water quality, approximately $13.6 million would be lost from recreational sales in the North Country alone. Through sustained water quality monitoring of North Country’s lakes and rivers, DES can quickly address water quality problems that can avoid costly restoration projects.
Johnson added, “Funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is helping to expand water quality monitoring programs in the North Country by providing a closer laboratory site at PSU, to service the North Country. We will also provide water monitoring equipment and funding for analysis of the water samples collected by new volunteers in 2010.”
If you are interested in learning more about VLAP and VRAP and participating by collecting water samples this summer, please contact Aaron Johnson at the Environmental Research Laboratory, 603-535-3269, or firstname.lastname@example.org. And, stay tuned for information on a North Country workshop to further educate volunteers about these exciting opportunities.