Our water quality program started in the Fall of 2006 after we learned that our local waters are only monitored for bacteria during the summer. Since that time we have implemented our 8-point strategy for permanent year-round clean water from healthy watersheds to marine ecosystems. Water falls from the sky as a gift, it is free and ready to drink. But after it arrives on land it starts to interact with the environment that mankind has created. Rooftops, driveways, expansive lawns, roads, commercial activities, the list keeps going on, but all of this has the chance to impair water quality and lead to storm water runoff or combined sewage overflows that wreak havoc on coastal water quality. Everyone talks about marine debris in the middle of the ocean, but water quality in the ocean is just important. Our focus on water quality starts with every drop that lands on the island and the path it takes to the ocean. Here are the projects underway. Each project requires a multitude of resources, contact us if you would like to help:
Whether you enjoy jumping off Van Zandt Pier, swimming at Kings Park, riding the waves at Ruggles or swimming at Easton’s Beach, we’ve been monitoring water quality on a weekly basis since 2006. This keeps a laser focus on water quality, especially during September thru May when lots of people use the ocean, but the state monitoring is not performed. We collect 9 water samples every Thursday, every week of the year.
For years we have known about dry-weather events with elevated bacteria, but last year we were able to document with expanded testing. For 2016 into 2017 in partnership with Newport, Middletown, and the State Health Laboratories we are expanding our testing efforts in the Stream and Moat and testing the water and the sediment as part of a project entitled “storm water pathogens – find it & fix it”. Our goal is to find the source of bacteria and develop remediation plans to eliminate it. We collect 12 water samples and 8 sediment samples, twice monthly.
The current process (Enterolert) requires 24 hours for a water sample to be tested for bacteria, but a new process (qPCR) is being implemented and tested in the summer of 2016 that will reduce the time to 3 hours. That means improved public health, less beach closures and increased tourism. In 2016 and 2017 we are helping the State Health Laboratories to validate the process and hopefully this will be in place for summer 2017. We collect 10 water samples per week in the summer and work with RIDOH on next steps.
Watershed (Formerly known as Seaweed Nutrient Analysis Program)
Water falls from the sky as a gift and travels across the land and ends up in a pond (for our drinking water) or becomes storm water and ends up in the ocean. This journey of a single drop of water helps to explain the story of why COA is working in the watershed, and in doing so it helps to explain why your most favorite ocean activities depend on a healthy watershed. We collect 5 waters every week monitoring Bailey Brook for nitrogen, phosphorous and bacteria.
Green Infrastructure Coalition
Since 2014 we have been an active partner in the Green Infrastructure Coalition (GIC) composed of 37 organizations ranging from non-profits to state agencies. The main focus on the GIC is to to promote and construct pathways for rainwater, melting snow, and other run-off to avoid pavement and infiltrate earth. On Aquidneck Island we play a role of using of advocating for GI solutions by sharing water quality results, education with local schools on watershed health, outreach to residential and commercial properties and supporting the efforts of Newport and Middletown to explore Storm Water Utility Districts.
Island Waters Partnership
Starting in the fall of 2016 we are now a partner in the Island Waters Project led by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission. This is a multi-year project focused on building an island wide municipal framework to improve water quality. Project partners include Aquidneck Land Trust, City of Newport, Town of Middletown, Town of Portsmouth, and the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District. Our main role on this project is to lead the education and outreach efforts via direct integration of the Island Waters project into the existing COA core programs and events.
There are “simple ways to improve ocean health” and whether ocean health or clean drinking water inspires your behavior, taking action today is what we need to do. This is why we do education programs with kids and share environmental education at events. Choices in your own backyard such as eliminating the use of pesticides, weed killer, letting your lawn turn brown when it is dry out, or growing more bushes and using a rain barrel, all this helps to improve water quality.
With all of the events listed above we put effort into outreach to share these opportunities with the community, via social media, website posts, media advisory, press releases, letters to the editor, earned media, paid media and other channels of communication. A HUGE part of OCEAN program is data processing and disseminating this information. After each set of tests we perform quality control, analysis of observation forms, and share the data. “Passion doesn’t influence policy, but data does!” So, we collect massive amounts of data to influence change.
To see the current results use this link | Current Results
To see our 2008-2014 annual report use this link | Annual Report