To the Editor:
In light of the recent discussions before the Narragansett Town Council regarding the Narrow River Preservation Association, the NRPA Board of Directors wishes to provide additional information about the Narrow River Watch Water Quality Monitoring Program.
The NRPA River Watch Program consists of volunteer monitors who obtain samples at 14 sites along the river, from Gilbert Stuart Stream in the north to Mumford Brook and Sprague Bridge in the south, from May to early October. Every two weeks, the volunteers take measurements of dissolved oxygen, salinity, chlorophyll and temperature. Additionally, once a month the monitors collect water samples and deliver the samples to the University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch laboratory for analysis of bacteria, and nitrogen and phosphorous. Since the start of the program in 1992, over 160 volunteers have taken more than 30,000 measurements and samples.
While the volunteers provide collection, measurement and basic analysis, the URI Watershed Watch Program provides the professional services necessary to have accurate, reliable and usable scientific data. The services include training, equipment and supplies, and laboratory analysis of thousands of samples according to EPA quality assurance standards.
The data, which are publicly available from the University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch website, have been used by numerous groups ranging from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to University of Rhode Island scientists and students to local high school students. For example, the database was the only basis for the long-term trend analysis in the 2001 R.I. Department of Environmental Management study that identified Narrow River as an impaired water body. In response to the finding, the Town of Narragansett went forward with significant investments in stormwater management projects along the river, such as those in the Circuit Drive, Mettatuxet, Edgewater and Pettaquamscutt Terrace neighborhoods.
Several of the River Watch sites are near the water quality improvement projects in which the Town of Narragansett has already invested. By monitoring the water quality here, we are able to look at the effect of these projects. Other sites may help detect problems with septic systems and wastewater in other parts of the river.
It is important to note that the water quality of Narrow River is crucial not only to Narragansett residents who live on or near the river, but also to anyone who is using Narrow River for recreation. Good water quality is essential for promoting Narrow River and its surrounding land as a place for people from other towns and states to visit and enjoy, and perhaps even move to.
Recreating in Narrow River - whether it is swimming, boating, fishing or other uses - is made all the more enjoyable by knowing the water is being tested on a regular basis. Moreover, the return of wildlife such as the American Bald Eagle to the river is all the more reason to continue investing in our community resources.
NRPA is very appreciative of the towns of Narragansett, North Kingstown and South Kingstown and other funding sources including our members that have contributed to the cost of the professional services provided by the URI Watershed Watch Program. As we start the third decade of the Watershed Watch program, we are very grateful to the more than 160 volunteers who have participated in the program over the first 20 years.