Harbor Watch monitors rivers and streams throughout Fairfield County. To see the waterways currently being monitored, please visit our homepage. Some rivers are monitored annually, such as the Norwalk River, which has data dating back from 1998 to the present. Others are studied less frequently.
If a river is chosen for monitoring in a given year, each site on that river is visited every other week from May through September. Sites are chosen based on access and representativeness of the river, with efforts made to space sites evenly throughout the length of the river. Water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity data are collected at each site. Water samples are also collected at each site to be tested in our Connecticut Department of Health-certified lab for indicator bacteria. All monitoring is carried out under a Quality Assurance Project Plan approved by the CT DEEP and EPA. At the end of the season all data are summarized into an annual publication, the “Fairfield County River Report.”
Track-down projects are initiated when elevated concentrations of indicator bacteria are observed during river monitoring or at the request of a municipal partner. A “track-down” project refers to an investigation searching for inputs of sewage pollution into a storm water system or other source areas such as from failing septic systems or direct illicit discharges. These projects often begin at an outfall, which is where contents of a storm water system discharge directly into a waterway. From there, the flow of water is followed upwards until a potential source is identified. Once a source is identified and remediated, a reduction in the concentrations of indicator bacteria is typically quickly observed.
Trawls are conducted in the Norwalk Harbor from May through October to observe and record juvenile fish abundance and species richness. Trawling takes place aboard the R.V. Annie, a 26’ converted oyster scow which is equipped with a 1 meter beam trawl and sorting bin. Contents from each trawl are brought aboard and high school student volunteers identify, record, and release collected species under the direction of staff. Students from high schools across the county participate, including a long-term partnership with Wilton High School’s Marine Biology Club.
Volunteers and staff pilot early morning surveys of various harbors in Fairfield County. These surveys track water temperature, dissolved oxygen and salinity from surface to bottom of the water column. Data from the surveys can be used to examine the overall health of a harbor. Harbor Watch has been performing these surveys since its inception in 1986.
Unified Water Study (UWS):
The UWS started in 2016 and is currently led by Save the Sound. It is a collaborative study across dozens of local organizations to better understand water quality in embayments of Long Island Sound. Individual groups collect data on an embayment all using the same protocol. By standardizing the equipment and methods each group uses, the data collected can be examined in a rigorous and comparable way. Findings from this study can lead to a better understanding of the health of Long Island Sound embayments. Harbor Watch is not only an active annual participant in the study, but also hosted the Equipment Loan Program portion of this study in 2017 and 2018.
Harbor Watch seeks to improve water quality and also to improve our understanding of things that impact the health of local ecosystems. Some current projects include salt marsh vegetation profiling, spatial and temporal distribution of E.coli in a waterway, and more!