Posted by: norstarnewengland | May 8, 2016

SciFri Take a Sample: Water Sampling on the Neponset River


My second citizen science project where sampling is involved is the Neponset River Watershed Association (NepRWA) Citizen Water Monitoring Network (CWMN), which I have been involved for almost 20 years.


A ‘sampling’ of the equipment I take to a location – bottles, plastic gloves, a sampling aid, a thermometer, a data sheet, and a carrying bag.

The Neponset River is a smaller river compared to the Charles River that runs along the southeastern Boston boundary with Milton and ends in Boston Harbor.  Like the Charles River, the Neponset also has had a history of alteration and abuse.  After a pilot program was successfully run, NepRWA expanded their program, CWMN (pronounced “Swimmin'” – get it?),  around 1998, which is when I became involved.  NepRWA also uses the data to monitor the health of the stream and isolates ‘hotspots’ where action may have to be taken.

I have sampled at several locations over the years. Each site has had their own water quality ‘characteristics.’ At the current location, I am downstream of a pond where two streams come together.  When I sample, I usually have three bottles to fill – a small one for bacteria, a taller one for phosphorus and other indicators, and medium-sized one for pH (acid-base).  Other parameters are measured such as temperature, depth, and flow on a data sheet. During this challenge period, I have gone through my ‘refresher training’ and am ready to go for this year!

How Sampling is Used – It is impossible to constantly monitor all of the water in a river system all of the time.  In these programs, relatively long-term trends are being monitored that don’t require immediate actions such as closing beaches. The amount of water used in the sampling must be large enough to provide meaningful results, but small enough to analyze the samples in a meaningful time.  Thus, both programs sample on a monthly basis at a specified number of locations each month.


A demonstration of me sampling at my designated sampling location




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