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Lake, Pond and Reservoir Monitoring

picture of someone taking water sample

Water Quality Monitoring

Since 1988, the University of Rhode Island has coordinated a volunteer-based lake monitoring program as part of its larger Watershed Watch Program (URI-WW). This program is the primary source of ambient water quality data on lakes and ponds in RI. Since 1999, the DEM Office of Water Resources has provided funding to URI-WW to support and expand the program. Along with contributions from many other sponsors, this has helped the URI-WW volunteer lake monitoring program grow to encompass over 70 lakes and ponds. Volunteers are trained and collect samples seasonally from May through October. Sample analysis is performed in URI laboratories. The resulting data is used by DEM to assess water quality conditions in over 75% of the lake acreage in the state. Assessment information is summarized in the Rhode Island Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report.

Water quality parameters measured in the URI-WW lake monitoring program include:

  • water clarity (secchi depth)
  • water depth
  • temperature
  • dissolved oxygen ( deep sites)
  • pH
  • Alkalinity
  • Chlorophyll
  • Total and dissolved phosphorus
  • Total nitrate
  • Ammonium -nitrogen
  • Chloride
  • Pathogens - entercocci

Freshwater Beach Monitoring

About 50 freshwater public beaches located on lakes are monitored pursuant to requirements of the RI Department of Health. The purpose of the Rhode Island Department of Health Beach Monitoring Program is to provide real-time water quality and safety information concerning all monitored bathing facilities. Through effective management of these beaches, the Department of Health can minimize public health risks associated with swimming in contaminated waters.

Fish Tissue Monitoring

In 2007, the DEM Office of Water Resources and Division of Fish & Wildlife along with the Environmental Protection Agency initiated a collaborative program to assess fish tissue contamination in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers in order to reduce this current large gap in data on water quality conditions. During surveys of fish community structure, which provide data on the number, size and species of fish, a sub-sample of fish are retained and their tissue is analyzed for mercury. EPA laboratories will be conducting the tissue analysis. Based on this information the RI Department of Health (HEALTH) may issue fish consumption advisories. For more information, please see the HEALTH Healthy Housing and Environment Team.

Lakes and ponds sampled for fish tissue under this program: Bowdish Reservoir, Echo Lake, Johnson's Pond, Keech Pond, Smith & Sayles Reservoir, Tiogue Lake, Tucker Pond, Upper Slatersville Reservoir, Watchaug Pond and Wilson Reservoir.


Additional data on the water quality of lakes is also generated by the TMDL program.



Office of Water Resources
235 Promenade Street
Providence, RI 02908-5767
Phone: (401) 222-3961
Fax: (401) 222-3564