January 24, 2013

Volunteers handle water-quality monitoring


---- — PAUL SMITHS — Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College have completed the 15th year of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program.

The program is a “citizen science” water-quality monitoring project. Protect the Adirondacks organizes volunteers across the Adirondack Park, mostly lake associations or individuals, who are trained in a scientific protocol for water testing.

Analysis of samples, annual reports and interpretation are managed by the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College.


In 2012, volunteers gathered samples in 69 lakes and ponds across the Adirondack Park.

The goal is to build long-term scientific databases for lakes and ponds across the Adirondack Park so water-quality trends can be analyzed. This data is vital to landowners, residents, local governments, businesses and park managers, program organizers say.

“A secondary goal of ALAP is to educate these citizen volunteers in Adirondack water-quality issues,” professor Michael DeAngelo, with the Adirondack Watershed Institute, said in a statement.

“Many of these volunteers are board members for lake associations and other organizations. They will be better able to make informed decisions regarding Adirondack waters after experiencing first hand collection of water samples and yearly education and training.”


Volunteers collect water samples for their lakes for three-month or five-month periods at roughly the same point each month. From these samples, 13 total measurements are analyzed.

Volunteers also measure the transparency of their lake with a Secchi disk, collect a bottle of water to be analyzed for chemical components and filter a small sample of water for chlorophyll.

The filter and water sample are kept frozen until they are transported to the laboratory at Paul Smith’s College.

“As a long-time sampler, I realize the dedication it takes to follow the scientific protocols which result in the ability to catch unhealthy trends in the lake or pond you really care about,” said Program Coordinator Evelyn Greene, also a Protect board member.


In 2012, three-month sampling at one station in a lake cost $140, and five-month sampling cost $220. Testing kits cost $250 but need to be purchased only once or can be shared with another monitor.

In the past, the partners have received grants to provide free kits to volunteers and lake associations.

Protect Executive Director Peter Bauer said area waterways are “vital to the local economy, define the Adirondack experience for many people and greatly contribute to the high quality of life in the park, yet we know very little about the overall state of the water quality of most Adirondack lakes and ponds. ALAP is one tool to try to gather good data and bring this information to public use.”

For more information, contact Protect the Adirondacks at 685-3088 or the Adirondack Watershed Institute at 327-6270.