New Hampshire has nearly 1000 lakes and ponds, over 10,000 miles of rivers and streams, and over 13,000 acres of estuaries. Think about trying to sample all those waterbodies on a regular basis for water quality conditions and trend analyses. Pretty tough job, huh? It is not possible and never will be for any government environmental protection agency to monitor all surface waters on a regular basis. That's where volunteers come in. New Hampshire has long had a tradition of volunteerism and collecting water samples is no exception. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) administer a number of programs that provide a mechanism for volunteers to gather a variety of water related data. The programs include lakes, rivers and estuaries, as well as plants, frogs and fish. Click on the programs below for more information.
University of New Hampshire (UNH) Programs:
NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Programs:
Lakes Lay Monitoring Program (LLMP) - UNH
The University of New Hampshire operates an inter-departmental program, including the Cooperative Extension and students, to educate the public about lake issues and to provide a mechanism for volunteers to monitor their lake quality. Begun in 1978, the program currently monitors over 50 lakes each year. Volunteers collect basic water quality information, usually on a weekly basis, and provide financial support for the analyses. UNH conducts more detailed studies and provides an annual report of the results.
Great Bay Coast Watch - UNH Sea Grant and Cooperative Extension
Under this program, operated out of the Sea Grant program at UNH, volunteers monitor water quality at various stations within the Little and Great Bay estuarine systems. This program was begun in 1990.
Volunteer Lake Assessment Program (VLAP) - NHDES
NHDES operates a cooperative program (which began in 1985) where volunteers pick-up and return sample bottles and sampling equipment, collect samples (usually on a monthly basis), and provide financial support for laboratory analyses. Analyses are conducted at the NHDES Limnology Center or at one of the satellite labs at Colby Sawyer College in New London or Franklin Pierce College in Rindge. NHDES also provides training, education and an annual report of the results for over 130 lakes currently in the program.
Volunteer River Assessment Program (VRAP) - NHDES
Started in 1998, this is an educational and technical assistance program designed to support and coordinate volunteer monitoring of New Hampshire rivers. NHDES loans sampling equipment, provides training, interprets the data and provides an annual report to each volunteer group. The volunteers collect the samples and work with local officials to remedy problem areas.
Weed Watcher Program - NHDES
The volunteer weed watcher program is a proactive approach to control the spread of exotic aquatic plants in New Hampshire. Prevention and early detection are the keys to controlling exotic plants. Weed watchers are trained to conduct regular plant surveys of their lake and to identify native from exotic plant species. Exotic species are removed when first discovered, before they spread into well-established beds that are virtually impossible to eliminate.
Frog Survey Program - NHDES
NHDES educates volunteers about the frog malformity issue. The volunteers are trained to identify and collect frogs as they metamorphose from tadpoles to frogs and to recognize malformities. Teams of volunteers conduct frog surveys in early summer throughout the state to help document the extent of the malformity phenomenon in New Hampshire. This program was started in 1998.
Fish Mercury Program - NHDES
New Hampshire has a general, statewide fish consumption advisory due to mercury. Lake specific advisories become possible only when sufficient numbers of fish are analyzed from a specific pond. Fish are collected by volunteers and brought fresh or frozen to the NHDES Limnology Center where length and weight measurements are taken. Analyses are conducted by the NH Public Health Labs and advisories are issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.