Buzzards Bay Health Looking Up

BUZZARDS BAY – The health of Buzzards Bay continues to improve as action to protect clean water continues.

According to Bay Health data collected through the Baywatchers monitoring program, last summer’s conditions continued an upward trend of cleaner, healthier waters across the bay.

Over the past five years, the Bay’s health has largely improved in most places as roughly two-thirds of waterways monitored in 2018 showed an improvement compared to the previous year.

Only 11 waterways showed declining health, and 20 places remained unchanged.

The Coalition uses information gathered by Baywatchers to produce the Bay Health Index, which scores the health of harbors, coves, and rivers from zero to one hundred.

These scores will be posted on new Bay Health signs at piers, beaches, and boat launches all around the region.

Overall, about 45 percent of Buzzards Bay’s waterways are now considered healthy, with “good” Bay Health Scores, and another 40 percent in “fair” condition.

The number of waterways in “poor” health, with too much pollution and unhealthy underwater habitats has fallen below 15 percent.

“The recent data is an encouraging sign that reducing nitrogen pollution will continue to improve water quality,” said Rachel Jakuba, the Coalition’s science director.

“You’ll notice it when you go to the beach and see clearer waters, more eelgrass, and less algae.”

Nitrogen pollution is the biggest threat facing Buzzards Bay with septic systems and wastewater as the main source of said pollution.

When water is polluted with nitrogen, it becomes cloudy and murky with algae that harms fish, shellfish, and eelgrass beds.

Local efforts to upgrade septic systems and connect more homes to sewers are reducing nitrogen pollution to the Bay’s waters.

Another piece of this Bay-wide improvement is the result of federal Clean Air Act regulations passed in the 1990’s.

These stricter regulations have reduced the amount of airborne nitrogen from fossil fuel-burning power plants over the last 10 years.

Baywatchers data from 2018 found lower levels of inorganic nitrogen, which is the type of nitrogen that comes from air pollution.

“While the Clean Air Act was designed to ensure we all have clear air to breathe, it also benefiting the Bay’s health by reducing nitrogen blowing in the air and landing on our water,” continued Jakuba.

Baywatchers volunteers are already back out on the Bay for the summer 2019 season to continue tracking the Bay’s health.

These trained volunteers measure temperatures, salinity, water clarity, dissolved oxygen, and weather conditions at more than 200 monitoring stations on 30 major harbors, coves, and rivers across Buzzards Bay.

If you are interested in signing up to volunteer this summer visit

By: LUKE LEITNER, News Center

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.
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