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Report on Statewide Stream Condition Recently Released

September 24, 2019

Scientists with the Assessment and Monitoring Program recently completed a five year long biological assessment of Vermont’s streams and rivers, and a report has been released on the findings of this study. Wadeable stream reaches were randomly selected from throughout the State, and assessed for water chemistry, habitat quality, and macroinvertebrate and fish communities. Overall results were used to estimate the biological condition of streams statewide, and to better understand what factors are causing changes in condition.  

The survey found that a vast majority of wadeable stream miles in Vermont meet DEC’s criteria for healthy macroinvertebrate and fish communities, and most streams meet even higher thresholds that are indicative of exceptional water quality. Among sites that did not meet these higher thresholds, the results suggest that stress due to overall land use activities, channel erosion, and increased temperature may all play a significant factor in changes in biological condition.

The results are consistent with two previous statewide surveys dating back to 2002.  A comparison to national and regional results from EPA’s National Rivers and Streams Assessment suggests that Vermont is in better condition for chemical stressors, including salinity and nutrients, as well as biological condition.  These findings highlight the unique quality of the Vermont’s streams, and the importance of DEC’s role in protecting and maintaining the state’s aquatic resources.

For more information on biological monitoring in Vermont’s streams and rivers, visit the DEC’s biomonitoring site.  Reports on previous statewide stream surveys can be found on the DEC’s assessment page.