The Saw Kill is a “direct drainage” tributary to the Hudson River, a source of drinking water, and also a place where treated water is released. The stream and its watershed contain a variety of ecological communities—aquatic, wetland, woodland, field—that support diverse populations of plants, fish, and wildlife. Interest in the Saw Kill’s water quality began with sampling in the late 1970s and with several ecological studies originating at Bard College. The sampling program was revived in 2016 with the development of the Bard Water Lab.
Monitoring the Saw Kill
The Saw Kill is 14.3 miles long and is contained within a 26.2-square-mile watershed that includes land in the towns of Red Hook, Milan, and Rhinebeck. It is a subwatershed of the Hudson Direct Drainage system, which includes all direct drainages in western Dutchess County. Each month, student volunteers and members of the Saw Kill Watershed Community collect samples from 14 sites along the Saw Kill. The Bard Water Lab then analyzes the samples for sewage-indicating bacteria, turbidity, chlorophyll a, colored dissolved organic material, phycocyanin, and optical brighteners. We also record the temperature and conductivity data that our volunteers collect while sampling.
Photo by Pete Mauney ’93 MFA ’00.
Saw Kill Watershed Community
The Saw Kill Watershed Community (SKWC) plays a vital role in helping us monitor the Saw Kill and as a forum to reach the broader community. SKWC unites area residents who are interested in protecting their water by maintaining the health of the Saw Kill and its watershed—for clean drinking water, flood protection, water supply, recreation, and ecological resources.