The Presumpscot Regional Land Trust coordinates volunteer water quality sampling throughout the region.
The Presumpscot River watershed covers much of Greater Portland and is the largest freshwater input into Casco Bay. As the region has quickly grown, so has recreational use of the river; there are now over 20 water access points for paddling the river, several swimming holes, and numerous great fishing spots.
Clean water is critical to safe recreation and for healthy wildlife habitat in the watershed. The Land Trust uses the findings from the Water Stewards program to help identify important places to conserve land and work in collaboration with partners on restoration projects.
You can explore the results from last year's Water Stewards program below. Please click here to see a full-screen version.
Good News for Top Recreational Spots on the Presumpscot River
The good news is that the majority of the top recreational spots along the Presumpscot River from Sebago Lake through Standish, Windham, Gorham, Westbrook, Falmouth and Portland were below the state threshold for E. coli bacteria levels during the 2017 water quality sampling season. The concerning news is that many of the tributaries to the Presumpscot River exceeded state standards for bacteria levels multiple times last summer.
The Presumpscot River watershed covers much of Greater Portland and is the largest freshwater input into Casco Bay. As the region has quickly grown so has recreational use of the river; there are now over 20 water access points for paddling the river, several swimming holes, and numerous great fishing spots (go to www.prlt.org/water to see water access points).
Clean water is critical to safe recreation and for healthy wildlife habitat in the watershed. The community-based nonprofit, the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, works to conserve and steward land and clean water while also providing access for recreation throughout the watershed and beyond.
Last year the Land Trust merged with Presumpscot River Watch and continued to monitor the watershed through the 10-year-old Water Stewards program. The Land Trust uses the findings from the Water Stewards program to help identify important places to conserve land and work in collaboration with partners on restoration projects.
Thanks to the Land Trust’s 35 volunteer citizen scientists, water samples were collected at 36 sites throughout the Presumpscot River watershed in 2017. The Land Trust tested for two important indicators of clean water: E. coli bacteria (an indicator of potential fecal contamination) and dissolved oxygen (needed for most wildlife to survive in the water). The results from the 2017 water quality sampling season can be viewed in an interactive map with a four tier rating system for water quality throughout the watershed at www.prlt.org/water.
The Water Stewards program works in collaboration with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Volunteer River Monitoring Program to train citizen science volunteers to collect water quality samples throughout the Presumpscot River watershed every other Saturday during the summer months, collecting a total of ten samples at each site per year. The State of Maine uses this data to identify rivers and streams that do not attain state standards and works with partners to develop restoration plans that address potential water quality problems in the watershed. As noted by Mary Ellen Dennis with the Department of Environmental Protection, “volunteer groups like the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust often collect water quality samples from locations not regularly monitored by our staff. This allows us to have better idea of water quality conditions for a broader geographic area.”
The Water Stewards program would not be possible without community volunteers. The Land Trust is now actively looking for volunteers for the 2018 season to test water in the Presumpscot Watershed and our new program in the Stroudwater River. Twenty more volunteers are needed by April 30th, and no experience is necessary. Volunteers can sign up online by going to www.prlt.org.
Thank you to Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, the Town of Windham Watershed Protection Fund, USM’s Environmental Science and Policy Department, IDEXX Laboratories, and to the Land Trust Business Partners and Individual Members for supporting the Water Stewards program.
Background Making a clean water determination includes assessing water quality over long periods of time (to observe trends) and collecting several different types of data. The Land Trust merged with Presumpscot River Watch in 2016 and now is analyzing 10 years of water quality data collected by Presumpscot River Watch volunteers. The ongoing monitoring program includes data on water temperature, dissolved oxygen and E-coli bacteria.