Water Quality Protection

PWA’s efforts to keep the ponds, river, and coast clean involve preventing pollution of all sorts. The top three categories of contamination that we are concerned about are nutrients & sediment, pathogens, and trash.

Primary water quality protection activities

PWA’s water quality protection work falls into four main areas. Click on a link for details.

this painted turtle on a log appreciates water quality

painted turtle, photo by Karen Berg

Two types of water quality monitoring

Ecological health

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.

measuring water quality: clarity, temperature, acidity, and dissolved oxygen on a pond

measuring water clarity, temperature, acidity, and dissolved oxygen on a pond

Human health

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).


Reducing soil erosion and polluted runoff

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.

LakeSmart Program

Through the LakeSmart Program, landowners receive free technical guidance on how to manage their property in ways that protect the quality of the pondwater.

Watershed Surveys

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 - surveying for erosion

a volunteer identifies a site of erosion as part of a pond watershed survey

Watershed Survey Reports

Shoreland Zoning Information

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Monitoring water quality

Water quality monitoring for ecological health

To keep an eye on water clarity and the ecological health of the ponds, PWA collaborates with the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program and also annually contracts with a private consultant for in-depth profiling of the ponds in the watershed. This data collection effort focuses on indices to water quality such as clarity, nutrient loading, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and acidity.

algae blooms affect water quality

you can help prevent algae blooms by being LakeSmart

Water Quality Monitoring Reports

water

Problems with Geese?

Canada geese can not only be aggravating, they can affect water quality. PWA has developed a brochure for landowners with suggestions on how to control nuisance Canada geese.

Water quality monitoring for human health

There are three public beaches on the Pemaquid Peninsula:

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.

swimmers at Biscay Beach appreciate water quality

swimmers at Biscay Beach

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.

water quality - taking a water sample

a volunteer measures the water temperature and collects a water sample at Biscay Beach that will be tested by a lab for E. coli bacteria as an indicator of fecal contamination of the water

Improvements to Biscay Beach

biscaybeach projectbufferplanting2protecting water quality by buffer planting

A special project in 2012 brought a porta-potty and new vegetative buffer to Biscay Beach. Read about it here.

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Keeping the Waters Free of Trash

Trash in the water:

  • 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.

  1. PWA’s Keep Pemaquid Peninsula Beautiful initiative conducts outreach that aims to get people to make the choice not to litter.
  2. 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.
water quality - removing a discarded TV from the river

This TV that was dumped in the Pemaquid River was removed and properly disposed of by PWA volunteers. Join our crew of litter-picker-uppers and keep the faith that the number of people who care about our river is way more than the number of people who treat it with callous disregard.

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Keeping the Waters Free of Invasive Plants

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.

Eurasian water milfoil invasion affects water quality

Eurasian water milfoil infestation, photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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584 Main Street • PO Box 552 • Damariscotta, Maine 04543
207-563-2196 • info@pemaquidwatershed.org
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