Aquidneck Island’s fresh and saltwater resources are immensely valuable -- for drinking water, recreation, our communities' quality of life and as the foundation of our coastal economy. Yet the Island's geography, geology and land use make these waters vulnerable to pollution from stormwater runoff.
The Island's lands and waters are shared by three communities: Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth, Rhode Island, as well as Naval Station Newport. Water flows freely across municipal boundaries, and all three communities contribute to stormwater runoff, while all three experience the impacts of pollution to fresh and salt waters: Beach closures, shellfishing bans, and threats to the Island's drinking water supply. Aquidneck Island is the only East Coast island that relies almost entirely on surface reservoirs for its drinking water, and all three communities are home to high-quality public saltwater swimming beaches.
What is the Island Waters Project?
Island Waters is a new (in 2016) three-year project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help the communities of Aquidneck Island restore clean water by working together to effectively manage stormwater pollution. The program was developed by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) in partnership with the municipalities of Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, and the non-profit organizations Clean Ocean Access (COA) and the Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT). Additional participating partners can be found on our 'partners' page.
The goal of the Island Waters partnership is to assist the communities of Aquidneck Island in restoring fresh and salt waters by reducing polluted stormwater runoff to the Island's reservoir system, other fresh water bodies, and local coastal waters. We're focusing initially on some of the principal threats to the Island's drinking water and swimming beaches -- nutrients (fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosporous) and bacteria.
How we will reduce polluted stormwater runoff
By understanding the status of Island water quality and the work done to date to develop BMP's, we will develop a foundation for identifying and implementing the most beneficial and cost-effective solutions to reduce stormwater pollution to Aquidneck Island's fresh and salt waters.
An integrated approach to an integrated resource
Ultimately, it is the intention of Island Waters to serve as a basis for increasingly integrated water resources and habitat planning, policy, and implementation, including the development of sustainable funding mechanims for water quality management. Working together, the communities of Aquidneck Island can reduce stormwater pollution more effectively, at lower cost, than by addressing the problem individually.
Since stormwater originates from nearly all types of land use on Aquidneck Island -- public and private, homes and farms, roads, roofs, parks and parking lots -- and affects virtually all of the Island's fresh and salt waters, and integrated approach is needed to effectively and efficiently address the problem. Island Waters provides such an approach, in order to ensure that Aquidneck Island's fresh and salt waters continue to serve as the foundation for a healthy environment, prosperous economy and high quality of life - now and in the future.