Pond Watch


Volunteer Paul Ketchum at work, Eel Pond, Woods Hole.

Volunteer Paul Ketchum at work, Eel Pond, Woods Hole.

The FWS Pond Watch Program performs weekly water quality monitoring at fifteen tidal ponds in Falmouth year-round.

Program volunteers measure dissolved oxygen, water temperature, salinity, and turbidity. The data are reviewed and consolidated by staff at the Waquoit Bay Estuarine Research Reserve (WBNERR).

 Until recently, data were then published each week in the Falmouth Enterprise. At present, FWS is working to develop a more useful and compelling way to share the program’s ten years of data with the public. Until that time, interested individuals can view the current weekly data on our website. View weekly Pond Watch data.


FWS initiated the Pond Watch Program in 2006 in an effort to stimulate public interest in protecting estuaries and salt ponds by making information about their health available to the public. In addition to increasing public awareness, Pond Watch monitoring provides important information to the scientific community on changes in water quality over time.

Nitrogen from a variety of sources, including wastewater, lawn fertilizer and atmospheric deposition, enters our bays, estuaries and salt ponds and promotes excessive algal growth. The growth and subsequent decomposition of the algae causes a decline in dissolved oxygen (DO) levels, as well as other negative changes, including increased turbidity and loss of biodiversity. Declining DO levels adversely impact populations of fish, shellfish and many other aquatic organisms, and ultimately, the species that depend on them, including people. Polluted water bodies also threaten property values and Falmouth’s future as a tourist destination.

The Pond Watch Program is always looking for new volunteers. If you would like to get involved, or simply learn more about the program, please contact FWS Treasurer and PondWatch Coordinator Ted Schmuhl at treasurer at falmouthwaters.org or contact the FWS staff at info at falmouthwaters.org. Also, please check out our Summer 2011 Newsletter for information on ways you can reduce your nitrogen footprint.

Extremely low dissolved oxygen levels occur only a few times year in Falmouth ponds, and studies suggest that such conditions may not last more than a few days and sometimes only a few hours. The casual observer might therefore decide that rare dissolved oxygen events are not a big deal. But suppose that 90% of the breathable oxygen in downtown Falmouth disappeared for just one day. What would happen? Everyone would have a very difficult time breathing, and try to escape to a place with more oxygen if they could. Whichever way they went there would be traffic jams and people dying, and if oxygen levels did not increase quicly every last person would die. Even if this were to happen only occasionally, no one, including other animals, would live in Falmouth. The town would literally become a dead zone. That’s why it’s so important that oxygen levels not drop below what is necessary to sustain aquatic life for even a short period of time, and that it not happen repeatedly.