Help Needed to Ensure Shepaug River Water Quality Remains High

Oct 4th, 2011 | By | Category: River, Water

On Saturday, October 15th, The Housatonic Valley Association and the Roxbury Conservation Commission will host the 3rd annual ‘Shepaug River Critter Assessment.’  During this fun, family friendly activity, community members  will work together to assess the health of the Shepaug River by collecting ‘river critters’ or small insects collectively referred to as ‘macroinvertebrates,’ at several locations along the river and its major tributaries in Roxbury and Washington.

Shepaug River (

The macroinvertebrates that volunteers will be studying include crayfish, clams, mussels and/or aquatic insects such as stoneflies, caddisflies, and mayflies, which live in shallow, fast-moving sections of rivers called “riffles.” Some of these macroinvertebrates can live only in very clean water; others are much more tolerant of declines in water quality and can survive even in very impaired conditions.  By studying the numbers and types of organisms found at their assigned sampling location, volunteer teams will be able to determine the water quality for their assigned location.

With nearly 6,000 miles of streams and rivers in Connecticut, there is no way that State scientists can assess every water body each year.   As a result, the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) relies on ‘citizen scientist’ programs such as the annual Shepaug River Critter Assessment program to keep track of water quality.

“This is such an important program, and the great thing is that anyone can participate –whether you’re 8 or 80, there’s a role for you,” explained Meghan Ruta, HVA’s Water Protection Manager and one of the coordinators of the upcoming fall event.   “Volunteers are not expected to have experience studying water quality.  At the end of the event we package the samples to be sent to the State to be checked by an expert.”

Samples previously submitted to the state by volunteer teams indicated that the Shepaug River is a very healthy river.  Eight sites along the river in Roxbury and Washington have been sampled twice annually since 2009.  “Based on the macroinvertebrates we’re finding, we know that this is a very high quality river – we’re finding very good to excellent conditions at all of our study sites.”  Ms. Ruta explained.  “But it’s still really important that volunteers continue to monitor the river each year.  If there is a drop in water quality we want to catch it as soon as it happens so that we can figure out what the problem is and how to fix it.  We need as many volunteers as possible– the more people we have protecting the river, the longer we’ll be able to keep it clean and beautiful.”

Volunteers interested in participating in the fall 2011 Shepaug River Critter Assessment are asked to meet at Roxbury Town Hall at 9:30a on October 15th.  (Heavy rain or lightning will postpone the event until October 22nd.)  Following a short training session at Roxbury Town Hall, team members will be divided into teams and assigned a site along the river to sample for macroinvertebrates.  After collecting a sample of macroinvertebrates from assigned study sites, teams will return to Roxbury Town Hall to sort and identify the samples with the assistance of experienced volunteers and experts.  The event will conclude by 2:00p.

All necessary sampling equipment and training will be provided.  Volunteers are asked to bring water and a bag lunch, and to dress appropriately for outdoor work.  Volunteers are not required to go into the river, however volunteers wishing to do so are encouraged to wear appropriate footwear (e.g., water shoes or waders), and to bring a change of clothing and a towel.   Children are welcome but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The 2011 ‘Shepaug River Critter Assessment’ program is a joint project of the Housatonic Valley Association and the Roxbury Conservation Commission, member organizations of the Shepaug River Association.  The event is part of a larger annual Health of the Shepaug River monitoring program, which seeks to monitor the overall health of the Shepaug River watershed using a variety of assessment methods including macroinvertebrate assessments, water chemistry sampling, documenting in-stream channel conditions, and conducting streamwalks to assess riparian conditions.

The fall 2011 ‘Shepaug River Critter Assessment’ is made possible through the generosity of the David L. Klein, Jr. Foundation and HVA member donations.

For further information about the sampling program, or to register to participate, contact Meghan Ruta, HVA Water Protection Manager, at 1-860-672-6678 or   Registration is encouraged but not required; in the event that the assessment is postponed due to weather, all registered volunteers will be notified.


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