Connecticut River recreation season kicks off to clean start

SAXTONS RIVER — In time for the summer recreation season, the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) and 13 other partners have launched the 2014 Connecticut River water sampling program.

Results from samples collected on May 29 & 30 show low bacteria levels for most sites, meaning conditions for swimming and boating have been clean along the Connecticut River. River users can visit the “Is It Clean” page located at to find bacteria levels at more than 110 river access and recreation sites from southern Vermont to northern Connecticut.

“We generally tell people that they might want to stay out of the water for 24-48 hours after a storm because bacteria levels could be high,” says CRWC River Steward Andrea Donlon, who coordinates the water sampling program. “Heavy rain is often the cause of high bacteria levels. Bacteria can spike after a storm due to combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and stormwater runoff from urban, suburban, and agricultural areas.”

“About 25 percent of water samples tested by CRWC and partners in 2012 and 2013 were unsafe for swimming because of high bacteria,” says CRWC Executive Director Andrew Fisk. “Our rivers are certainly much cleaner than they used to be, but it makes sense for river users to pay attention to this information to help them manage risk.”

The website provides bacteria information for the Connecticut River and more than 20 tributaries. Water sample results are posted to the website weekly until early October and are color-coded and map-based to offer guidance about whether the water is clean enough for swimming and boating.

This information is a snapshot of river conditions at the moment the sample was taken, but can give river users information they can use to take precaution to prevent potential illness. Some sites are still showing results from 2013, but all sample partners will begin collecting samples within a few weeks and results will be updated soon.

The water sampling project is now in its seventh year. Local partner organizations include Connecticut River Watershed Council, Southeastern Vermont Watershed Alliance, Putney Rowing Club, and the Connecticut River Chapter Trout Unlimited (Vermont). Additional support for this program is provided by the Norcross Foundation, Lintilhac Foundation, and United Water.

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