In 1998, the New Hampshire Volunteer River Assessment Program (VRAP) was established to promote awareness and education of the importance of maintaining water quality in New Hampshire’s rivers and streams. VRAP aims to educate people about river and stream water quality and ecology and to improve water quality monitoring coverage for the protection of water resources.
Today, VRAP loans water quality monitoring equipment, provides technical support, and facilitates educational programs to volunteer groups on numerous rivers and watersheds throughout the state. VRAP volunteers conduct water quality monitoring on an ongoing basis and increase the amount of river water quality information available to local, state and federal governments, which allows for better watershed planning.
Why is VRAP Important?
VRAP establishes a regular volunteer-driven water sampling program to assist DES in evaluating water quality throughout the state. VRAP empowers volunteers with information about the health of New Hampshire’s rivers and streams. Regular collection of water quality data allows for early detection of water quality changes allowing DES to trace potential problems to their source. Data collected by VRAP volunteers are directly contributing to New Hampshire’s obligations under the Clean Water Act. Measurements taken by volunteers are used in assessing the water quality of New Hampshire’s river and streams, and are included in reporting to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
How Does VRAP Work?
VRAP is a cooperative program between DES, river groups, local advisory committees, watershed associations, and individuals working to protect New Hampshire’s rivers and streams. Volunteers are trained by VRAP staff in the use of water quality monitoring equipment at an annual training workshop. VRAP works with each group to establish monitoring stations and develop a sampling plan.
During the summer months, VRAP receives water quality data from trained volunteers. The data are reviewed for quality assurance, and are entered into the environmental monitoring database (EMD) at DES. During the off-season, VRAP interprets the data and compiles the results into an annual report for each river. VRAP volunteers can use the data as a means of understanding the details of water quality, as well as guide future sampling efforts. DES can use the data for making surface water quality assessments, provided that the data met certain quality assurance/quality control guidelines.
Annual Water Quality Reports and Surface Water Quality Assessments
Water quality measurements repeated over time create a picture of the fluctuating conditions in rivers and streams and help to determine where improvements, restoration or preservation may benefit the river and the communities it supports. All data collected by volunteers are summarized in water quality reports that are prepared and distributed after the conclusion of the sampling period. VRAP groups can use the reports and data as a means of understanding the details of water quality, guiding future sampling efforts, or determining restoration activities.
Along with data collected from other water quality programs, specifically the DES Ambient River Monitoring Program, applicable volunteer data are used to support periodic DES surface water quality assessments. Assessment results and the methodology used to assess surface waters are published by DES every two years as required by the federal Clean Water Act.