Mohawk River Water and Sediment Monitoring

Protection and improvement of water quality in the Mohawk River watershed is essential to keep the community protected from unhealthy, unsafe conditions. It’s also important that water supplies are conserved, aquatic communities can flourish and natural processes are sustained. Water quality monitoring in the Mohawk River Basin has been conducted for over 40 years.  Surface water quality is assessed by means of chemical, biological, and physical parameters. Water quality assessment can identify which contaminants are present, their sources, and the extent to which they affect the health of the watershed.

The headwaters of the Mohawk River are located in the southwestern corner of the Adirondacks.  The considerations for this area include acid precipitation, combined with low buffering capacity of the waters, which increases the availability of some contaminants, such as aluminum and mercury, as well as producing low pH waters. While the transport of sediment is a natural process associated with the evolution of river systems, land use and human activities such as agriculture, residential and commercial development, increasing surface cover that does not allow for proper drainage.  The flowing water sediment clogs the mouths of tributaries, as well as receiving waters in the Mohawk main stem, necessitating dredging.  A recent 4-year study indicated the yield of suspended sediment from the Mohawk watershed was 2.8 times that of the Upper Hudson.

The annual breakup and thaw produces regular flooding associated with rising temperatures and thaw of stored waters from winter-accumulated snow.  The most typical time for this flooding is generally January through April. This is the one of the leading causes of flooding in the watershed. Ice jamming (or high piles of ice) during these events provides a challenging addition to this hazard. Historically, some of the most significant floods in the basin have been winter rain on snow events.