A Day in the Field with Carl

Meet Carl Palm. Carl is the Assistant Superintendent for the Kittery Water District.

Carl has many important daily and weekly tasks. One of which is vitally important to where it all starts; how and where we get our drinking water. We’re going to take a trip with Carl as he performs one of his very important weekly tasks.

One of the tasks Carl must perform on a weekly basis is to check the integrity of the dams and dikes that hold our precious water resources. Any movement or degradation of these dams and dikes could cause some potentially serious problems. Weekly inspections are our first line of defense ensuring the ongoing stability of the dams. This is done in support of the engineering and geotechnical inspections that are performed annually.

Getting around with Carl was rather fun. For some of his checks and testing, we were able to drive to the areas with a pickup truck. Some of the other areas we needed to get to we had to use an ATV or “The Gator”. It’s an ATV that can get you almost anywhere and can carry a lot of equipment.

Some of the checks he does are done visually, such as checking to see if any animals have dug holes or burrowed into the side of the walls of the dams or if there has been any damage done by natural or human sources. He is also looking for any seepage or pooling of waters that could be indications of potential breaches or failure. Specific attention is paid to the condition of the concrete dams and spillways.

All of our reservoirs; Boulter Pond, Middle Pond, Folly Pond and Bell Marsh Reservoir all receive these weekly checks. Bell Marsh Reservoir receives the following additional inspections:

The first additional check he performs is done with a piezometer. A device used to measure liquid pressure within the face of the dam. Any changes in these pressure readings would provide an early indication of a potential issue within the dam. This meter is plugged into a box above the ground, which is connected to a set of underground wires, like piano wires, that can sense if there is or has been any changes in pressure which could lead to movement or shifting of the ground surrounding the walls of the dam.

He also must open some manhole covers which are arranged along the toe-drain system of the dam, (toe-drain system – A series of drainpipes that surround the toe of the dam), these manholes contain V-Notched weirs. The flow through these V-Notched weirs provides yet another indication of the dam’s stability. A sharp increase or decrease of the flow is another early indication of a potential issue.

He also must test the waters surrounding the resources, such as streams and brooks to check for the dissolved oxygen levels of the brook or stream. When checking water in the surrounding brooks and streams around the dams, he uses a device called a Dissolved Oxygen meter. This will tell him the percentage of dissolved oxygen available in the water which is necessary to support aquatic life.


The DEP designates the necessary dissolved oxygen levels as well as the water level / flow rate.

KWD also maintains an aeration pool which continuously pumps water into the air helping to maintain the desired dissolved oxygen levels within the stream.

Performing his weekly inspections affords him  opportunitie to interact with the public and offer education regarding our water supply, it’s maintenance and protection.

The public is allowed to go up into these areas to hike, ride bicycles or use ATVs year-round. For more information about public access to Kittery Water District’s watershed lands, please click HERE.

If you happen to see Carl out there, say Hi!

(Written by Trustee Mike Melhorn)