Staff Spotlight: Water Quality Unit

Each year staff from NYS Parks’ Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Water Quality Unit coordinates water quality monitoring programs for State Park beaches and lakes.  The overall goal of EMB’s Water Quality Unit is to balance safe and enjoyable recreational opportunities with the environmental protection of our water resources. Since a substantial portion of attendance within the State Park system is associated with water use and enjoyment, it is important to assure that these facilities are operated in a manner that is both safe for patrons and protects the resource for future visitors. Water resources also need protection since they provide critical habitat for wildlife and ensure the proper functioning of ecosystem-level processes.

Keeping Park Beaches Healthy

NYS State Parks operates 77 beaches with lifeguards at 60 state parks. These beaches are located on lakes (including small lakes found within the borders of state parks, the Finger Lakes, Lake Chautauqua, Lake Champlain, and the Great Lakes), streams (including Enfield Creek and Dry Creek), rivers (including the Niagara and St. Lawrence), and the ocean (including the open ocean, bays, and Long Island Sound).

To keep the beaches healthy, NYS Parks staff must properly maintain beaches, monitor water quality, close when necessary, train staff, and educate patrons about safe swimming practices. Some of the tasks that Water Quality Unit staff do to help sites safely operate beaches include:

  • provide water quality training and assist park staff with site-specific questions and needs
  • distribute water quality educational materials
  • conduct research studies to learn more about the water quality of select beaches
  • maintain databases of beach monitoring results, contacts, and closures
  • work with outside Agencies (e.g. DOH, EPA, USGS) to develop models of beach water quality and expand knowledge on beaches

Maintaining Healthy Lakes in NYS Parks

There are approximately 180 lakes and ponds in the State Park system. These lakes provide important habitat for fish and wildlife and are enjoyed by many park visitors each year.

EMB staff have monitored over 125 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs since 1999. The goals of EMB’s lake monitoring program are to:

  • conduct targeted monitoring studies of lakes of significance or concern
  • maintain databases on lake water quality
  • compile lake reports regarding lake characteristics for priority sites
  • determine the degree of impairment, if any, for each lake
  • assist regional and park staff in lake restoration projects and with site-specific questions and needs

2012 Water Quality Team Distinguished Service Award

Commissioner Rose Harvey presented EMB’s Water Quality Team with a Distinguished Service Award for their extraordinary team accomplishment and dedicated professional service in working to protect NYS Parks streams, lakes and bathing beaches.

For more information about the Water Quality Team’s work in NYS Parks please contact the Environmental Management Bureau.

Post by Susan Carver, OPRHP. Photos by John Rozell and Water Quality Unit.

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