VLAP Celebrates 25 Years

[Editor’s Note: Ossipee Lake Alliance is a VLAP participant. Data gathered by our volunteers is part of a larger effort managed by Green Mountain Conservation Group, which tracks water quality trends on Ossipee Lake and elsewhere in the watershed]

Concord — May 7, 2010 — The year 2010 marks a historic milestone for the Department of Environmental Services Volunteer Lake Assessment Program. DES and volunteers throughout the state are celebrating 25 years of lake monitoring in New Hampshire.

VLAP was initiated in 1985 and is the longest standing volunteer monitoring program within DES. Congratulations, VLAP volunteers!

VLAP has now grown to include approximately 500 volunteer monitors at 180 lakes and ponds. With over 900 lakes and ponds and nine DES biologists, data gathered through VLAP expands the ability of DES and the Environmental Protection Agency in assessing the health of New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds.

What has 25 years of Volunteer Monitoring Shown?
Every two years, VLAP lakes with 10 or more consecutive years of data undergo statistical analyses. The data are used to determine water quality parameter trends, and specifically whether trends are improving, degrading, stable or variable.

Trends are determined for the following parameters: chlorophyll, transparency, epilimnetic phosphorus, and hypolimnetic phosphorus.

In 2008 and 2009, statistical analyses were performed on approximately 100 lakes and ponds (that’s over 50 percent of VLAP lakes!). The results depict a large number of lakes with stable trends. In fact, transparency and eplimnetic phosphorus show stable trends at greater than 50 percent of lakes, and chlorophyll concentrations are stable and/or improving at 33 percent of lakes.

However, 25 percent of lakes show a degrading (decreasing) trend in transparency, 14 percent of which cannot be explained by a degrading (increasing) trend in chlorophyll. This could indicate an increase in the amount of suspended sediments entering New Hampshire’s lakes through storm water runoff. Also, a large number of trends are variable in nature.

As additional data are collected from individual lakes and ponds, these trends may become more defined. While a good percentage of lakes are showing degrading trends, overall, they are still fairly low in numbers.

How Valuable are Volunteer Monitoring Data?
Data collected through VLAP results in the early detection of water quality changes, allowing DES to trace potential problems to their source before the quality of the lake or pond is severely or permanently impacted. Over time, baseline data are used to determine long-term trends in lake water quality.

VLAP volunteers collect quality data by adhering to monitoring protocols in VLAP’s Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). These quality data are invaluable in serving as a community planning resource, in maintaining federal lakes funding, and in DES’s mission to protect New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds.

How Valuable is Volunteer Time?
This information could not have been compiled without the help of our volunteer monitors. As you know, your hard work and dedication are invaluable to DES. However, we decided to figure out just how valuable your time truly is.

In 2009, we estimated volunteers spent approximately 2,670 hours sampling their lakes and ponds (does not include travel time to and from VLAP laboratories). Based on an estimated volunteer hourly wage of $20.25 (www.independentsector.org), we owe VLAP volunteers approximately $54,000 for lake sampling. This is a $25,000 increase from just ten years ago, Amazing!

Your time spent collecting water quality data, educating your neighbors, lake associations and watershed residents, and participating in local government and statewide efforts to protect New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds, cannot simply be surmised monetarily.

We clearly owe a debt of gratitude to each and every volunteer who has faithfully sampled their lake or pond, faulty Kemmerer bottles and all, and contributed to 25 invaluable years.

Let’s make it 25 more!

Sarah Steiner is DES’ VLAP coordinator

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