Ct. DEEP staff and volunteers test the state's waterbodies for water quality. Two volunteer projects on the Willimantic River are Rapid Bioassment and Streamwalk.
One way to identify a healthy stream is Rapid Bioassessment in Wadeable Streams and Rivers by Volunteer Monitors (RBV). Volunteers are trained to collect and identify organisms that live on a stream bottom. Samples are collected in the fall. After they are sorted in categories, the number and diversity of organisms indicate the relative health of the stream.
In 2011, two groups used Rapid Bioassessment to assess water quality in the watershed. E.O. Smith High School students tested water quality in Cedar Swamp Brook at Mansfield's Shelter Falls Park. When they collected samples of organisms in the brook, they found 2 Most Wanted species and 6 Moderately Wanted species, indicating that this stream is healthy. At Heron Cove Park in Tolland, Alliance volunteers found 3 Most Wanted species and 5 Moderately Wanted species in the Willimantic River.
Learn about UConn student experiences during an RBV project to assess Willimantic River water quality near the University of Connecticut.
The Alliance appreciates these volunteer efforts and encourages other individuals and groups to form an RBV team to test other streams next fall. The Last Green Valley Monitoring program has information about how to join an RBV project.
Willimantic River Streamwalk
The Willimantic River Streamwalk project is a first step to identify strategies to conserve and protect water quality and quantity in the Willimantic River Watershed. The first Streamwalk along the Willimantic River and many of its tributaries was in the summer of 2000. Volunteers were trained to gather information by walking along the bank, in the stream/river, or by canoe and visually observing specific features. The data collected included average width of riparian vegetation, type of streambank vegetation, type of substrate material, average water depth, and average stream width. Volunteers also noted sites with problems, such as erosion or algae.
ECCD Streamwalk Project
The Eastern Connecticut Conservation District (ECCD) compiled an initial report in 2002 from the Streamwalk data. As a follow up, in the fall of 2005, ECCD staff began assessing this data and designing action plans to address water quality problems. They toured the upper watershed including Furnace Brook and Middle Brook. In late May and early June of 2006, they surveyed the river's main stem looking for locations of concern noted during the 2000 Streamwalk and evaluated the original Streamwalk data. They then met with town representatives to discuss potential ways to address problem areas and to offer assistance with finding solutions.
Overall, the river and most of its tributaries were found to be in good health. Specific areas of potential concern included flood debris along the upper river from the October, 2005 flood event, erosion and stormwater impacts at several sites, and the need for protective buffers of vegetation. The Streamwalk data is a set of snapshots taken during 2000 and 2005-6 of specific parts of the river and its tributaries. It is not a comprehensive list of locations of concern in the watershed. Some areas still need to be visited for an initial assessment. Known areas of concern will continue to need monitoring. The ECCD report Action Plans for the Willimantic River Basin, provides more information about the Streamwalk project and its recommendations.