Waterkeeper Water Quality Monitoring Shows Increases in Pollution Due to Climate Change

Every year our Waterkeepers work hard to gather information about the conditions of our local rivers, streams, and coastal waters. Waterkeepers compile this information in unique ways to share their findings with their communities, and to encourage people to access and recreate on their local waterways. Waterkeeper water quality programs provide a valuable public service.

The Waterkeepers’ real-time data and annual analyses show that our local waterways are experiencing intense pollution pressures from fast population growth and development, and increased intensity and duration of rainfall as well as frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change. Across the region we’ve seen extreme rainfall events and more frequent floods that devastate our communities, overwhelm our water infrastructure, and deliver immense pollution loads to our waterways. The data collected are used by Waterkeepers to craft policy to mitigate new pollution pressures, build more resilient communities, reverse environmental injustices, and improve implementation and enforcement of existing Clean Water Act laws and regulations.

Check out their latest findings and reports:

The Anacostia Riverkeeper Water Quality Monitoring Program provides up-to-date, accurate water quality data for the Anacostia River. Every year, dozens of volunteers are recruited and trained to sample water at 19 sites in Washington DC and Maryland. Current river conditions can be found on this map and annual reports can be found here. On the Anacostia Riverkeeper website, you can find a place to report pollution in the Anacostia. This information is shared via the Anacostia Riverkeeper social media and is used for internal assessment of the river’s health.

Every spring and summer, Assateague Coastal Trust’s Tidal Waters Monitoring Program monitors several sites to determine if it is safe to swim. Their website includes an interactive map and information about how to determine for yourself if water is safe to enter. They also publish bacteria sample results (specifically enterococcus), and the results of Worcester County’s official advisories on Swim Guide each week.

Arundel Rivers Federation compiles health data from 98 stations spread across three rivers, including 31 creeks, in order to produce State of Our River reports, including a data map. You can contact the Arundel Rivers Federation here and report any problems you see in the waterways here

Blue Water Baltimore publishes current water conditions on their Baltimore Water Watch interactive map on their website. The map tracks 12 different indicators from bacteria to temperature to salinity. They collect data from 49 different collection sites thanks to the hard work of volunteers. Annual reports cards are published here. You can report pollution to the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper here.

James River Association produces their biennial State of the James, an interactive map on the progress and setbacks that the James River has faced over the last year. The map tracks 18 different indicators on things like pollution, fish stocks, and bald eagle numbers. In 2021, they sounded the alarm that the collapse of the American Shad. Every year, they publish current river conditions with the help of volunteers during the spring and summer. You can contact the James River Association here.

ShoreRivers hosted a series of community meetings in April and May to share their 2021 water quality reports. They rely on information gathered by volunteers from over 36 swimtester sites throughout the region. They even made a video to share their 2021 results with their community. Current river conditions can be found on SwimGuide. This summer, they purchased new scientific monitoring equipment that will significantly improve their ability to predict and monitor toxic algal blooms in real time.

Potomac Riverkeeper Network released its first annual Swimmable Potomac Report in 2022 in order to encourage recreation on the Potomac River. The report summarizes the results found by their Community Science Water Quality Monitoring Program that started in the Washington DC area and has now expanded up and downriver with sites in Maryland and Virginia with the help of dozens of volunteers. Current river conditions can be found on their website and on SwimGuide. If you would like to be part of the Community Science Monitoring Program, you can learn more here. You can report pollution here

Gunpowder Riverkeeper monitors water quality with the help of interns and volunteers. Since 2019, results have been posted to Swim Guide to inform the public on where they can recreate safely as well as indicate possible stormwater or point-source pollution. In 2022, Gunpowder Riverkeeper partnered with Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Chesapeake Water Watch to use the Hydrocolor app to ground-truth satellite data with field observations.

For bay-wide information, the University of Maryland releases an annual Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem Report Card. Here they track the progress on 11 indicators including things like dissolved oxygen and water clarity in the bay. In 2021 the Chesapeake Bay scored a C with a 50% rating – a 5% improvement from last year’s water quality monitoring program. 

If you want to help all of the Waterkeepers and stay up to date about what’s going on in our waterways, you can use the Water Reporter app to report water issues anywhere. You can also learn more about the safety of your local waterways with SwimGuide. This resource is used by Waterkeepers in both the U.S. and Canada.