Volunteer Water Monitoring Program Overview

Connecticut is fortunate to be a water-rich state.  We have thousands of miles of rivers and streams, hundreds of lakes and ponds, and of course, the magnificent Long Island Sound.  CT DEEP encourages groups and individuals interested in helping to conserve and protect our water resources to become volunteer water monitors, also commonly referred to as 'citizen scientists' and 'community scientists.'

New! If you are interested in joining the Volunteer Water Monitoring Program, please fill out this form: New Water Quality Monitoring Volunteers. CT DEEP staff will use the information you provide to help connect you with our programs. 

A Three-Tiered Approach to Volunteer-Based Water Monitoring 

A Tiered Approach for Volunteer-Based Monitoring of Wadeable Streams and Rivers outlines the DEEP Water Monitoring Group's three-tiered approach to supporting volunteer water quality monitoring in Connecticut.  The three-tiered approach allows for participation by volunteers having a wide range of skills and interest levels. 

The most basic level of volunteer monitoring is Tier 1 monitoring.  Tier 1 programs typically entail volunteers contributing observational data such as photographs or written descriptions to document stream conditions. This information is particularly useful when reporting a suspected issue to DEEP, such as unusual water color or very low flow levels.  Little to no training, equipment or commitment are needed to monitor at the Tier 1 level.

Tier 2 monitoring consists of slightly more advanced monitoring, although no prior training or experience is expected.  Presently, CT DEEP coordinates several statewide Tier 2 programs for volunteers interested in conducting water monitoring.  The CT DEEP Volunteer Water Monitoring Program Coordinator provides new volunteers with training and equipment.  Volunteers are expected to follow DEEP protocols and submit their data to the State at the conclusion of the monitoring period. See the "Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities" section below to learn more.

Finally, more advanced volunteer groups, typically those with paid staff members or individuals with advanced scientific training and expertise (e.g. professional scientists) can work with CT DEEP staff to outline a Tier 3 monitoring program for their town or watershed.  Tier 3 programs consists of watershed or waterbody-specific intensive monitoring plans, such as bacteria track-down studies or nutrient loading assessments.  DEEP staff support and funding may be available to support Tier 3 programs.  Contact the Volunteer Monitoring Coordinator to learn more if interested.

Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities

River and Stream Monitoring

Connecticut has approximately 5,800 miles of perennial rivers and streams.  This distance is roughly equal to the US-Mexico and US-Canada borders combined! DEEP therefore relies on the support of volunteers (citizen scientists) to help monitor these important waterbodies.  

DEEP currently coordinates two programs for volunteers interested in monitoring streams and rivers in their towns or watersheds:

  • The Riffle Bioassessment by Volunteers (RBV) Program trains volunteers to study aquatic macroinvertebrates in order to document Connecticut’s healthiest streams.  Monitoring occurs September through November annually.
  • Volunteers in the statewide Volunteer Stream Temperature Monitoring (V-STeM) Network are trained to use data loggers to monitor stream temperature at one or more locations. Monitoring occurs year-round with the bulk of field work completed in the spring (April/May) and fall (September/October).  
Lake and Pond Monitoring

Although the DEEP Water Monitoring Group maintains a robust a statewide lake and pond water quality monitoring program, there are still many more lakes in the State than can be monitored by Agency staff in a given year.  Therefore, in 2021, CT DEEP launched a statewide volunteer-based lake and pond water quality monitoring program:

  • The Connecticut Lake Watch program trains volunteers to measure water clarity using a secchi disk and to report potentially harmful algal blooms.  Volunteer data are submitted to an online database where they are available for public viewing and download by anyone interested. A limited number of secchi disk kits are available for loan to groups looking to establish a new lake monitoring program.  Contact the DEEP Volunteer Water Monitoring Program to learn more.
Coastal and Long Island Sound Monitoring

At this time, CT DEEP does not coordinate a formal statewide volunteer coastal monitoring program. However, the Monitoring Group implements an extensive Long Island Sound (LIS) water quality monitoring program and groups currently conducting coastal monitoring are encouraged to submit their data to support this effort. To learn more contact Katie O'Brien-Clayton at katie.obrien-clayton@ct.gov

Volunteer Water Monitoring Conferences

In 2014, the CT DEEP Monitoring Group co-chaired its first Volunteer Water Monitoring Conference at Goodwin College in East Hartford, CT.  A second conference was held in 2019 at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT.  Both conferences sought to bring together the volunteer water monitoring community in Connecticut, highlight the success of current programs, provide information about issues of emerging concern, and provide training for groups looking to expand their monitoring programs.  It is the vision of the Monitoring Group to host a conference every five years, with the next conference slated to occur in 2024 in western Connecticut; if you are interested in hosting, please contact the Volunteer Water Monitoring Coordinator!

DEEP_WaterVolMon Listserv

The DEEP_WaterVolMon Listserv is open to anyone who wishes to join. The listserv is used to share program announcements and information about the upcoming DEEP-led trainings. In addition, additional information that may be of interest to the volunteer water monitoring program (e.g. non-DEEP led webinars on volunteer monitoring and funding opportunities) is routinely shared.    

How to Subscribe to the Listserv    

If you have an e-mail signature, header, and/or footer set up to be automatically included in emails, you will need to delete these before sending the subscribe request.  Send an email to listserv@list.ct.gov.  Leave the subject line blank and in the body of the message type: 

Subscribe DEEP_WaterVolMon YourFirstName YourLastName

Substitute your first and last name in the text above when sending.  You will receive an e-mail confirmation that you have successfully subscribed to the listserv. 

How to Unsubscribe to the Listserv

Requests to unsubscribe must be sent from the same email account used when subscribing to the email list.  Send an e-mail to listserv@list.ct.gov  Leave the subject line blank and in the body of the message type:

Unsubscribe DEEP_WaterVolMon YourFirstName YourLastName 

Substitute your first and last name in the text above when sending.  You will receive an e-mail confirmation that you have been removed from the listserv.  

Related Pages

To Learn More Contact:

Volunteer Water Monitoring Program
CT DEEP Water Monitoring and Assessment Program
79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106

Content last updated September 20, 2023.