Sunday, June 19, 2011


-- Westford Steam Team --
My wife and son volunteer with the Westford Stream Team whose mission is to document all surface water flowing both into and out of our town. They have been part of the team for the last five years collecting data on water quality to make sure upstream sources are not adversely affecting our water quality and to assure that the water leaving town is as good or better than when it arrived. I've had the opportunity to fill in for my wife a couple of times and have participated in the measurement process.

Our town is unique in this region of Massachusetts drawing all of our water from two local aquifers via either town or private wells. We are not part of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

Our local stream water quality directly affects our drinking water.

My wife involved my son at the early age of 11. This on-stream lesson about how water quality affects fish populations has translated to a young man who wants to continue his education after high school in fisheries and wildlife management.

And also has created a pretty decent angler and a budding entomologist.

--Typical Measurement Site --
A typical measurement day starts around 3 AM with the team leader picking up a state certified water measurement meter from a neighboring conservation group. The meter is calibrated at the time of pick-up and again at the time of return. The leader meets the morning crew at the first stream test site around 5 AM and then a second crew relieves the first starting at 8 AM.

At each site, they take multiple water samples and use the meter to measure real-time temperature, dissolved oxygen, percent oxygen, pH and specific conductivity. They also observe and record water clarity, air temp, flow rate, channel depth and other environmental conditions at the sample site. A double blind sampling is used to assure accuracy and proper chain of custody should water data be required for legal proceedings.  The samples are sent to a lab for analysis of phosphorus, ammonia and nitrogen compounds.

My son produced and my wife edited the recruitment video for more volunteers. The Westford Stream Team has funding support from our local conservation commission and trust. They are also applying for state grant monies to expand the program and purchase measurement gear.

-- Snapping Turtle --
Not only does the team perform a valuable service to the community, the volunteers experience the beauty of our town's natural environment.

This morning they encountered a wild turkey, coyote, snapping turtle and a golden stone fly.

In two of the brooks, some small native fish where spotted. Typically brookies or red pickerel are found in our local streams.
-- Outflow from non-functioning mill --
It takes commitment and dedication to spend your early weekend mornings helping the community. Much of this team's work, along with the countless other volunteer conservation efforts around the country, go unnoticed and we all should support and help these groups with our time and money.

I personally want to thank the Westford Stream Team for their work and let them know that I truly appreciate the work they do in supporting water conservation!