The Estuaries Project (Water Quality Monitoring)

What are Estuaries?

Estuaries are special bodies of water that form where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with the salty seawater. The result is a unique community of plants and animals including shore and sea birds, shellfish, marine mammals and fish, living in an environment that is among the most productive on earth. Unfortunately, nitrogen from a variety of sources, including septic systems, wastewater treatment plants, and lawn fertilizers, leaches into groundwater and flows into estuaries, resulting in the growth of nuisance plants that use up all the oxygen in the water, forcing out the fish, shellfish and indigenous plant species.

Little Island, looking South

Little Island, looking South


The Estuaries Project

As part of the Estuaries Project, Three Bays Preservation has completed another successful season of monitoring the water quality of our local estuarine system, helping us to evaluate water quality, determine how it relates to the health of the estuary, and recommend land use changes necessary to bring about an improvement. Three Bays’ assistance was also credited by former Barnstable Dept. of Public Works Assistant Director Mark Ells with the establishment of a broader, town-wide monitoring program. Three Bays is proud to be leading the town, having created the launching point from which the town-wide Estuaries Project will be expanded.

On a broader state level, Three Bays has also received praise. According to Dr. Brian Howes of UMass Dartmouth, Director of the Estuaries Project, “Three Bays Preservation has played a critical role in focusing attention on declining nutrient related water quality, which is far and away the most critical environmental issue facing Cape Codders in the coming decades. With help from Three Bays, the $12.5 million Estuaries Project has been established to address nutrient issues throughout S.E. Massachusetts.”

Three Bays Preservation depends on the help of volunteers to make this project work. We remain grateful to all who participated these past years, and welcome new participants in the future.


Websites for further information: