Bibliography Background About KRIS

Water Quality in Gulf of Maine Atlantic Salmon DPS Watersheds

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sets water quality standards for the rivers and lakes of the state. It shares water quality monitoring responsibilities in the seven Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment or DPS Atlantic salmon rivers with watershed councils, the Department of Agriculture (DAG), the Department of Conservation (DOC), the Atlantic Salmon Commission (ASC) and private companies. In the year 2000, the DEP hired staff and began a focused program to "to see if salmon reproduction or productivity is limited by natural or man-made water quality conditions found in the salmon rivers" and to capture water quality baseline data to gauge trends (Whiting, 2001a). 

The Sheepscot River basin provides a model for cooperative efforts to examine water quality factors that may limit Atlantic salmon recovery. The Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association, the Sheepscot River Watershed Council, the Kennebec Soil and Water Conservation District, Project SHARE and federal and State agencies have combined to perform or fund numerous studies to define temporal and spatial water quality impairment. The data from these studies and the reports themselves are component parts of KRIS Sheepscot and their findings are summarized here in the water quality Background pages and used as the basis for Hypotheses that look for patterns in the data. Charts of the most important data summaries can also be found as Topics in the KRIS database.

lake_vol_mon_cov2002.gif (145148 bytes)The Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association has a water quality monitoring program, which has been ongoing since 1994. Volunteers with the program collect data on bacteria, dissolved oxygen and temperature (Pugh, 2002).

In the other DPS Atlantic salmon rivers, volunteers have helped with water quality data collection during summer baseflow conditions and winter stormwater runoff (Whiting, 2003). The Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (Williams, 2002; 2003) coordinates hundreds of volunteers who collect thousands of water quality samples from lakes throughout the state, including lakes within some Atlantic salmon river systems. Extensive access to Maine lake water quality data can be obtained at the PEARL website hosted by the University of Maine.

The DEP tracks and regulates most water pollutants, but yields authority over pesticides to DAG. The Maine Department of Forestry, which is under DOC, also monitors pesticides. Agencies work closely together in part because of cooperation under the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Plan for Seven Maine Rivers (MASTF, 1997). Many problems identified have been partially remedied because of this strategy and such progress is noted in the Chemical Pollutants page.

Robinson et al. (2003) note some regional, long-term trends that should be considered because similar trends may be manifest in the DPS rivers: 

"Annual concentrations of sulfate and total phosphorus decreased during the second half of the century, whereas annual concentrations of nitrate, chloride, and residues increased throughout the century....These changes in the water quality probably are related to changing human activities. Most notable is the relation between increasing use of road de-icing salts and chloride concentrations in rivers. In addition, changes in concentrations of nitrate and phosphorus probably are related to agricultural use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers."

Water Quality Standards

The Maine DEP sets water quality standards for various stream "Classes", which are defined according to their condition, location and uses (Table 1) (MDEP, 2002). Criteria are set for some types of measurements such as dissolved oxygen (D.O.) and the bacteria E. coli, but there are no standards for other parameters like temperature. Maine standards for acceptable levels for pesticides, metals and other pollutants sometimes follow national standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Waterbodies that fail to meet water quality standards are placed on the impaired waterbodies list (303d) as required under the Clean Water Act (CWA) (MDEP, 2004).

Table 1. Maine classification of fresh surface waters and criteria for dissolved oxygen and bacteria (38 MRSA §465, MDEP 2001). Taken from Table 2.4.1. (Arter, 2004).

Class Dissolved Oxygen Criteria (numeric) Bacteria (E. coli) Criteria (numeric) Habitat Criteria (narrative) Aquatic Life Criteria (narrative)
Class AA as naturally occurs as naturally occurs

free flowing and natural

No direct discharge of pollutants
Class A

7 ppm;

75% saturation

as naturally occurs natural as naturally occurs
Class B

7 ppm;

75% saturation

64/100 ml (g.m.*) or 

427/100 ml (inst.*)


Discharges shall not cause adverse impact to aquatic life in that the receiving waters shall be of sufficient quality to support all aquatic species indigenous to the receiving water without detrimental changes to the resident biological community.

Class C

5 ppm;

60% saturation

142/100 ml (g.m.*) Or

949/100 ml (inst.*)

habitat for fish and other aquatic life

Discharges may cause some changes to aquatic life, provided that the receiving waters shall be of sufficient quality to support all species of fish indigenous to the receiving waters and maintain the structure and function of the resident biological community.

*g.m. is the geometric mean
* the instantaneous reading  


Arter, B. S., 2004. Sheepscot River Water Quality Monitoring Strategic Plan: A guide for coordinated water quality monitoring efforts in an Atlantic salmon watershed in Maine. Prepared for the Project SHARE: Research and Management Committee. 84 pp. [975kb]

Beland, K., N. Dubé, M. Evers, R. Spencer, S. Thomas, G. Vander Haegen, and E. Baum.1995. Atlantic salmon research addressing issues of concern to the National Marine Fisheries Service and Atlantic Sea Run Salmon Commission. Maine Atlantic Sea Run Salmon Commission Final Project Report NA29FL0131-01.

Chizmas, J. S. 1999. Study of pesticide levels in seven Maine rivers. Maine Board of Pesticides Control. 14 pp [6.2 Mb]

Dill, R., C. Fay, M. Gallagher, D. Kircheis, S. Mierzykowski, M. Whiting, and T. Haines. 2002, Water quality issues as potential limiting factors affecting juvenile Atlantic salmon life stages in Maine rivers. Report to Maine Atlantic Salmon Technical Advisory Committee by the Ad Hoc Committee on Water Quality. Atlantic Salmon Commission. Bangor, ME. 28 pp. [162kb]

Goldman, C.R. and A.J. Horne. 1983. Limnology. McGraw-Hill, Inc. New York . 464 pp.

Halsted, M., 2002. Effects of stream flow on the stream temperature, E. coli concentrations and dissolved oxygen levels in the West Branch of the Sheepscot River. Alna, ME. 15 pp. [450kb]

Haines, T., and J. Akielaszek. 1984. Effects of acidic precipitation on Atlantic salmon rivers in New England. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service FWS/OBS-80/40.18.

Haines, T., S. Norton, J. Kahl, C. Fay, S. Pauwels, and C. Jagoe. 1990. Intensive studies of stream fish populations in Maine. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Acid Deposition, Environmental Monitoring and Quality Assurance, EPA/600/3-90/043.

Kroglund, F., and M. Staurnes. 1999. Water quality requirements of smolting Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in limed acid rivers. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 56: 2078-2086.

Magee, J. 2001. Agrochemical monitoring and potential effects on Atlantic salmon in eastern Maine rivers. National Marine Fisheries Service Report.

Maine Department of Agriculture. 2002. Report on activities in Atlantic Salmon Conservation Plan Rivers 2002. Maine Dept. of Ag. 

Maine Department of Environmental Protection. 2002. Water quality concerns and effects from state fish hatchery discharges. Unpublished Report. Augusta, ME.

Maine Department of Environmental Protection. 2004. 2002 Section 303(d) Report: Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Waters. Augusta, ME.

National Research Council, 2003. Atlantic Salmon in Maine. The Committee on Atlantic Salmon in Maine, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, Ocean Studies Board, Division on Earth and Life Sciences. National Research Council of the National Academies. National Academy Press. Washington, D.C. 260 pp. [3.5Mb]**

Pugh, L., 2002. Analysis summary of water quality monitoring data, 1994-2001. Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association . Alna, ME. 6 pp. [225kb]

Robinson, K. W., J. P. Campbell, and N. A. Jaworski, 2003. Water quality trends in New England rivers during the 20th century. United States Geologic Service. Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4012. Pembroke, NH. 29 pp. [950kb]

State of Maine.1998. Maine Section 303(d) Waters list.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1986. Quality criteria for water 1986: EPA 440/5-86-001. Office of Water Regulations and Standards,  Washington D.C.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2000. Endangered and Threatened Species; Final Endangered Status for a Distinct Population Segment of Anadromous Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) in the Gulf of Maine. Federal Register Notice Vol. 65, No. 223 / Friday, November 17, 2000 / Rules and Regulations. Pages 69459-69483 [225kb]

Whiting, M., 2001a. Year 2000 Progress Report for DEP Water Quality Monitoring Plan - Maine Atlantic salmon rivers. Maine DEP, Bangor Regional Office. Bangor, ME. 4 pp. [25kb]

Whiting, M., 2001b. Progress report: A summary of water quality monitoring results from Spring 2001, Maine Atlantic Salmon Rivers Project. Maine DEP, Bangor Regional Office. Bangor, ME. 6 pp. [775kb]**

Whiting, M., 2002. Maine Salmon rivers water quality monitoring progress report for 2002 field season. Maine DEP, Bangor Regional Office. Bangor, ME. 22 pp. [2.25Mb]**

Williams, S. 2002. Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program Annual Report 2002. Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, Auburn, Maine. 52pp. [7 Mb]

Williams, S. 2003. Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program Annual Report 2002. Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, Auburn, Maine. 52 pp. [8 Mb]