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Update on URI's Watershed Watch Program

Mark Hengen collecting water samples from the Roger Williams Park ponds. PC: Ryan Kopp.

By Casey Chan

On a recent sunny day, Mark Hengen, a Watershed Watch volunteer and Edgewood resident who has a background in water and soil sciences, set out to collect data from the Roger Williams Park ponds. Gliding along the water in his kayak, he visited sampling locations and gathered data that will help the Center to determine the efficacy of its stormwater structures.

After the implementation of 42 green stormwater management structures in Roger Williams Park, the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center’s central concern is whether these structures will succeed in filtering and slowing stormwater runoff. A major indicator of the structures’ success is a decrease in nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) levels in the ponds. The Stormwater Innovation Center works in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island's volunteer Watershed Watch Program to collect important data on nutrient levels, pH levels, temperature, dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll concentrations.

URI Watershed Watch is a statewide monitoring program sponsored by the URI Cooperative Extension and other Rhode Island organizations. Through Watershed Watch, trained volunteer citizen scientists collect data and monitor the health of bodies of water.

Hengen, who is also a professor at Johnson and Wales, is a returning Watershed Watch volunteer, meaning that he has prior experience with pond data sampling. Training for this year's volunteers was delayed and could not be held in person at the University of Rhode Island, due to restrictions on large gatherings. But, after a meeting on Thursday, the volunteers will be assigned sampling sites and provided with sampling equipment. Hengen and these new Watershed Watch volunteers are graciously donating their time and effort to help out with testing water quality.

A table from Providence Stormwater Innovation Center with information about the data collected in Roger Williams Park..

The Watershed Watch program's water quality analyses focus mainly on nutrient enrichment (eutrophication), lake and stream acidification, and bacterial contamination. Some samples are collected for measurement in URI's labs, while others, such as temperature samples, are measured directly at the body of water. Generally, samples are collected between 10 am - 2 pm from the deepest part of the lake, and the time commitment is about 1-2 hours per week. In Roger Williams Park specifically, nutrients, pH, alkalinity, and bacteria are measured three times per year, chlorophyll-a is measured bi-weekly, and temperature and dissolved oxygen are measured weekly (more information on our webpage here). Weekly and bi-weekly samples can be entered online or sent by mail directly to URI.

Watershed Watch further ensures the quality of their data by requiring repeated/duplicate measurements and encouraging volunteers to participate in quality assurance tests. The data collected by the volunteers in this program will ensure the success of the center's best management practices and lead to possible site improvements.

PC: Ryan Kopp.

Unfortunately, the training season for this monitoring year (from May-October 2020) has passed, with two online training sessions held over the past few months. But, new classroom and field training sessions will occur in March and April 2021. The new water sample collection season will last from May-October 2021.

However, if you enjoy spending time on the water, and want to improve the clarity and health of your local ponds, lakes, or streams, please look for more information about the Watershed Watch program here. Information about registering for future volunteer training is detailed in an earlier blog post as well. In the meantime, please look for more information about Stormwater Infrastructure at our upcoming training, Stormwater 101!

Special thanks to Mark Hengen for his contributions to the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center. Your work is greatly appreciated.


Green, Linda, et al. "Watershed Watch Factsheet." URI Watershed Watch, 2019, Accessed 22 June 2020.


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