River Watchers

Saturday March 4th– although it was a cold, very cold, Saturday morning volunteers trickled into Ipswich River Watershed Association headquarters one by one. While the river most prominently features in the community’s minds during the warmer months, when they can expect to be out paddling its length or fishing along its banks, these volunteers already have their thoughts tuned to its waters. While it should be a given that local waters are clean, plentiful, and rich with life, this is not the case.

Volunteers work at calibrating their testing kits.

Even when population numbers hold steady, development continues, the suburban sprawl, so aptly named, creeping across more and more land. The impact of human behavior on the surrounding environment means that those who wish to protect it must be careful stewards.

That’s where the RiverWatch Volunteer Monitoring Program, and its volunteers, come in. Eight volunteers gathered around the conference table at Riverbend and, despite the distraction of downy and red-bellied woodpeckers cavorting outside the window, listened attentively as Programs Coordinator, Ryan O’Donnell lead them in their yearly training.

The RiverWatch Program sets its volunteers out to test the water quality and content of the Ipswich River at several segments along its course. Each test reveals different aspects about the current and future health of the river. As the area, slowly it seems, moves out of winter and into
spring the testers are expected to see the effects of the season in their readings. Road salt washed away by rains and snow melt find their way to the river, and its presence is accumulative. With the weather bouncing between icy snow and warmer rain, the river has gotten a thorough dosing of salt this year. In addition are the effects of the past summer’s drought. Last fall, Ryan explains to the volunteers, there was less
[macro-invertebrate] life in the water. This year, we hope to learn how river life is recovering after the drought.

With their testing kits calibrated and their knowledge and purpose refreshed, the RiverWatch volunteers set off just before noon. When true spring comes, know that they will already have been out on bridges and banks, monitoring, and keeping a careful watch on the river.

Interested in becoming a RiverWatch volunteer?There will be two more trainings, coming up soon. Saturday March 11th at the Middleton Historical Society and Saturday March 18th at Mattera Cabin, Reading. Both trainings are 10AM to 12PM. Learn more about the RiverWatch Program at: https://www.ipswichriver.org/riverwatch/