• The Deerfield River is tributary to the Connecticut River, depicted here in Thomas Cole's famous 1836 painting

  • The Deerfield River in its floodplain eroding through the red sandstone that makes up Mount Sugarloaf.

  • Swimming hole on the Deerfield (photo: Art Schwenger)

  • Rafters enjoying a summer day on the river (Photo: Art Schwenger)

  • Sunset during December over the Deerfield Valley (photo: A Schwenger)

  • Autumn along the Deerfield RIver

Project Background

volunteers2The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Watershed Management (DWM) assesses the biological health in each of the Deerfield River’s major tributaries every five years in partial fulfillment of their federal mandate to report on the status of the Commonwealth’s waters under the Clean Water Act. DWM suggests that an ideal monitoring plan for the Deerfield River Watershed would include 35-40 biomonitoring stations (MA DWM 2005) to adequately assess the watershed’s rivers and streams with respect to assessing attainment of the aquatic-life-use water quality standard. Owing to budgetary and staffing limitations, assessment efforts fall well short of these recommendations. In 2005, for example, DWM sampled from approximately 20 sites distributed throughout the entire Massachusetts portion of the watershed.

As part of the Deerfield River Watershed Association’s (DRWA) commitment to protecting the watershed’s resources, the DRWA has performed water quality monitoring to supplement the DWM’s efforts to monitor the watershed’s condition. In recognizing the need to more thoroughly assess biological conditions in the Deerfield River watershed, the DRWA implemented in 2005 a long-term macroinvertebrate monitoring program for the watershed. The objectives of the program are to

1. to augment DEP biomonitoring efforts to assess surface waters in the watershed with respect to their aquatic-life-use status and

2. to familiarize citizens of the watershed with biological monitoring to increase support for and participation in watershed enhancement and protection activities.

The program includes both professional and volunteer elements, and therefore represents a “hybrid” program. In order to provide useful data to the state, the program uses DWM’s professional field and laboratory biomonitoring protocols. Volunteers are trained by the program lead, Michael Cole, to collect field data and to assist with sample sorting. All field sampling and sample processing is overseen by Dr. Cole. Macroinvertebrate identification is performed exclusively by Dr. Cole, who uses the same levels of taxonomic resolution used by the state. The DRWA’s program sampling schedule calls for year-to-year rotating through the major subwatersheds. To date, the program sampling schedule has been as follows:

  • 2005 – Green River
  • 2006 – South River
  • 2007 – North River
  • 2008 – Cold River, Chickley River, and Clesson Brook
  • 2009 – Vermont portion of the watershed (using VT ANR BASS protocols)
  • 2005 – Green River
  • 2011 – Flood effects and recovery monitoring in selected Deerfield River and tributary reaches

Future years

  • 2012 – South River
  • 2013 – North River
  • Etc.

volunteers3Since 2005, the DRWA has assessed biological conditions in more than 60 reaches and our data are now used by the DWM in their 305(b) water quality assessment reports to congress (see National Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress). We hope our monitoring efforts will provide long-term information that documents the status and trends in the condition of rivers and streams of the Deerfield River watershed for many years to come. This information can assist with identifying high-quality streams that should receive priority attention for land preservation and conservation, slightly impacted streams that may benefit from additional study to identify developing or on-going threats to water quality or habitat conditions, and heavily impaired streams that may be targeted for significant efforts to abate pollution, flow, or habitat issues.