Editorial: Reservoir odd couple

Posted 1/9/20

About five years ago we reported with relief that Little Compton’s Watson Reservoir and Tiverton’s Stafford Pond Reservoir were due for new levels of state protection. The effort was to …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Editorial: Reservoir odd couple

Posted

About five years ago we reported with relief that Little Compton’s Watson Reservoir and Tiverton’s Stafford Pond Reservoir were due for new levels of state protection. The effort was to target algae blooms and bacteria that threaten water supplies and public health at both places.

Update: Algae and bacteria are doing better than ever in these often fetid farm ponds, now even in winter at Watson.

Two weeks ago, the state announced that it was lifting blue-green algae alerts from a dozen bodies of water — everyplace except Watson Reservoir where not even winter’s cold had managed to kill off slime so toxic that it’s capable of killing any dog silly enough to swim in it.

An obvious Watson “Reservoir” culprit is farm waste, one expert said — not merely fertilizer but also fungicides that kill off ponds’ natural protection against runaway algae growth.

These two ponds have long been an odd couple among reservoirs.

At most reservoirs, people and pets must keep their distance or risk arrest. Boats, even rowboats and canoes, are forbidden.

Not at Stafford. People and pets can visit anytime, fishing is fine, and there’s even a boat ramp to make things easier. Boat motors are okay here as well; rules limit gasoline-fueled horsepower to 10 — except for those with private access to the pond.

And, says the RI Department of Health website, “scattered commercial development, waste disposal sites, and dense shoreline development in Stafford Pond magnify pollution risks.” High nutrient levels are “overfertilzing” the pond, the state adds.
The state has long been conflicted when it comes to Stafford Pond, with obligations both to the protection of drinking water and to the needs of fishermen who buy licenses. Too often the cause of safe drinking water has come up on the short end of this equation.

Eight thousand-plus people and several schools get their water from Stafford Pond ‘reservoir.’  And Watson Reservoir is a stand-by supply for many thousands more on Aquidneck Island.

This drinking water isn't protected to reservoir standards. 

In fact, it's scarcely protected at all.

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.