MRBA Water Quality Monitoring Program

Missisquoi River Basin Association (MRBA) maintains a volunteer program to test the river water quality. The volunteers started in 2005 sampling phosphorous, turbidity, and nitrogen levels along the length of the Missisquoi River. Since 2005, the volunteers have collected over 7,000 samples. The sites stretch over 90 miles long and include both sides of the Green Mountain chain. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation sponsors the water quality testing and has the samples analyzed at The University of Vermont's LaRosa Lab. Sampling the Missisquoi River takes place every other week from the first week of June to mid-October. Every sample has a unique bottle with a barcode that must be chilled and brought to the lab within 24 hours of sampling.

Sampling is conducted by MRBA volunteers. These volunteers are trained at the start of every year on how to properly collect the water samples. Volunteers collect the water and mark on a spreadsheet daily information including weather conditions, who collected the data, and where data was collected. The chilled water samples are brought to the LaRosa Lab by a volunteer within 24 hours.

Project Contact: John Little
Project Contact Email:
Year Project Started: 2005
Project Lifespan: 2005- Present
Regional Planning Commision: None
Land Protection, water
Other Keywords: Water Quality
Project Accomplishments:

With eleven years of data collection, the MRBA and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation are able to analyze the water quality of the Missisiquoi River watershed. With the information that the volunteers collect, they have the ability to recognize which branches, or sub-watersheds of the river needs more attention at a given time. With the constraints of a small budget, it is important to target dollars and efforts wisely.

Project Partners:

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Vermont Department of Conservation
Department of Fish & Wildlife
Lake Champlain Basin Program
Friends of Northern Lake Champlain
University of Vermont

Critical to Success:

Without a coordinator, the success of this program would not be achieved. This program involves a lot of organization between the volunteers and the sampling lab. The water samples have a very important 24 hour timeline that needs to be followed. This is a critical job for the coordinator.


The largest challenge faced by the MRBA is simply organizational. It involves the coordination of getting all the sample bottles from the lab, properly labeled, into the watershed, and distributed to all the volunteers in our large watershed. Once that happens, on the day of sampling we need to bring the samples back to a common central location, and transport them to the LaRosa Lab in Burlington, VT within 24 hours. Without a paid coordinator to ensure that all this happens, we can't ensure the quality of our results.