Primary water quality protection activities
PWA’s water quality protection work falls into four main areas. Click on a link for details.
Two types of water quality monitoring
Most often when we talk about a pond’s water quality, we are referring to water quality in terms of ecological health. This is the water quality monitoring done on the ponds that involves taking measurements of environmental factors (turbity/clarity, nutrient loading, dissolved oxygen, temperature, acidity, etc.) as indices to the quality of the water and aquatic habitat.
The other way of looking at water quality is in terms of risk to human health. This is the water quality monitoring that involves taking a water sample to a lab for analysis. The lab tests for certain microbes whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with disease-causing organisms. Testing the water for pathogens is usually done on a site-specific basis such as in a well or at a swim beach (not pond-wide).
The greatest threat to the water quality of ponds is pollution. Much of the pollution that enters ponds does so via stormwater runoff. PWA and its partners offer trainings and workshops for landowners, such as the LakeSmart program, about best land use practices that help reduce polluted runoff into ponds. PWA also conducts watershed surveys in order to identify possible sources of polluted runoff.
Through the LakeSmart Program, landowners receive free technical guidance on how to manage their property in ways that protect the quality of the pondwater.
PWA coordinates periodic on-the-ground surveys of the watersheds of each pond in order to identify sources of soil erosion and other non-point-source pollution. Once problem areas are identified, PWA can share the information with the land’s owner and offer assistance should the landowner choose to remediate the problem.
Water quality monitoring for ecological health
- Biscay Beach (fresh water) – view map
- Bristol Mills Swimming Hole (fresh water) – view map
- Pemaquid Beach (salt water) – view map
To help protect public health, PWA monitors the water at all three beaches for pathogenic contamination. PWA does this beachwater monitoring as a service to the towns that manage the beaches (the Town of Bristol owns Pemaquid Beach and the Bristol Mills swimming hole; the Town of Damariscotta owns Biscay Beach).
PWA’s monitoring of Pemaquid Beach’s water is done in collaboration with the Maine Healthy Beaches Program, which conducts and covers the cost of the water testing. For the two freshwater beaches, PWA takes the water samples to a lab in Rockport for testing, and PWA pays for the cost of the water testing.
Current swim beach status
In terms of findings over the years, Pemaquid Beach has excellent water quality for swimming and is one of the best beaches in the Healthy Beaches Program. Pemaquid Beach status information and historical monitoring results can be found here. Water quality at the two freshwater beaches also has consistently tested within established limits for swimming.
Improvements to Biscay Beach
A special project in 2012 brought a porta-potty and new vegetative buffer to Biscay Beach. Read about it here.
- compromises the health of humans, wildlife, and the livelihoods that depend on healthy waters;
- threatens tourism and recreation, and the critical dollars they add to our local economies;
- complicates shipping and transportation by causing navigation hazards (especially in the ocean); and
- generates steep bills for retrieval and removal.
Most of the trash in the environment is a result of littering. Littering is a preventable, human-generated problem. In simple terms, the two-pronged solution is to (1) end littering behavior and (2) clean up the litter that exists.
- PWA’s Keep Pemaquid Peninsula Beautiful initiative conducts outreach that aims to get people to make the choice not to litter.
- To cleanup litter and prevent the debris from entering the waterways, PWA leads litter pickups each year to rid the Pemaquid Peninsula inlands and coastline of litter. We also lead cleanups on the riverine section of the Pemaquid River.
Although not a parameter of water quality per se, invasive plants are nonetheless a factor in the quality of the aquatic environment. An infestation of an invasive aquatic plant can choke the water of oxygen and out-compete native plants, wreaking havoc on the habitat of aquatic organisms. An infestation also can clog the water with mats of vegetation, making swimming, boating, and other uses of the water extremely difficult if not impossible. Learn more about PWA’s work to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants here.