Proposed Vermont Water Sensor Network:

VT proposes to instrument watersheds at five sites within the northern portion of the state as part of NEWRNet in coordination with the states of RI and DE. All sites will be instrumented with s::can sensors. The strategy in selecting these sites has focused on relatively well-characterized locations that we believe will help to answer the regional and local biogeochemical questions related to climate change and land use outlined in the collective vision of NEWRnet, while also establishing a network that can address local water quality issues to help facilitate our societal research. Four of these sites establish a nested sampling network within the Missisquoi River watershed; the fifth site, Potash Brook, lies within the city of Burlington. The network outlined below complements and leverages our existing Track 1 monitoring efforts (led by Schroth) that have developed an extensive automated and grab water sampling program within these watersheds as part of a 5-year effort (in its second year) aimed at understanding effects of climate change scenarios on VT water quality. The Missisquoi watershed is a relatively large (3100 km2) watershed containing the dominant landcovers of VT: forested (70%) and agricultural (21%, primarily corn fields or livestock). It spans the montane environment of the northern Green Mountains to the lowlands of the Champlain Valley. This watershed has been the site of intensive hydrochemical monitoring and modeling due to the heavy loads of agricultural runoff-derived nutrients (P, N) that the watershed delivers to Missisquoi Bay of Lake Champlain. As such, Missisquoi Bay is often the site of the most severe and persistent harmful algal blooms in Lake Champlain and where contrasts between the perceived the interests of farmers and lake users are particularly stark. The nested sites are designed to capture nutrient dynamics within the Missisquoi watershed by monitoring subcatchments dominated by agriculture, urban development, or forests (i.e. landscape end-members) and an integrated site.

The sub-catchments for sensor sites include:

  1. The agriculturally dominated system Hungerford Brook is small (50 km2) and low-lying with over 50% of areal coverage associated with agriculture. A recent report suggests that Hungerford Brook is a major contributor to total Missisquoi River P and N loads.
  2. The Missisquoi River at East Berkshire is influenced or threatened by water quality issues typical of forested VT catchments: rural road and stream bank erosion, ski area development, road salt application, and climate change
  3. The main stem of the Missisquoi River is located in Swanton, and should be representative of the ‘integrated’ Missisquoi River signal.
  4. An additional sensor will be deployed within the the Missisquoi River reach based on Year 1 data to enhance our process based nested approach. When compared to the landscape end-member sites, the downstream integrated site should allow us to study when the solutes and sediments are processes within the watershed (sinks, storage and transformation).
  5. We also propose to instrument Potash Brook in the city of South Burlington as an ‘urban’ land cover end-member to examine urban water quality issues. This is an ideal site for our natural and social scientific research goals due to the amount of development within the city of South Burlington. The city is one of nine municipalities within VT regulated by the EPA under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. In order to meet the requirements of its permit, South Burlington must employ a variety of best management practices which include educating citizens about the pervasiveness of stormwater and constructing BMPs aimed at reducing pollutant loads.