During the summer months, you may have seen the Alliance sharing weekly water quality data in DC that is collected by volunteers at popular public recreation areas. Did you know that the Alliance also coordinates other monitoring projects all over the watershed? Our Water Quality Monitoring Initiative works to provide technical expertise, training, and resources in order to engage diverse partners to collect and share water quality data. Monitoring can help communities meet many goals, including educating community members on their impacts on local waterways, help track the effectiveness of conservation and restoration efforts, and fill in data gaps at the federal and state levels. Highlighted below are the five different monitoring projects that the Alliance coordinates.

Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative (CMC)

The Alliance is one of five partner organizations that serve as Service Providers for the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative (CMC). The CMC aims to connect Community Science initiatives across the region in order to amplify voices and inform regional watershed management decisions. Working with over 100 partner organizations, the CMC Service Providers provide technical, programmatic, and outreach support in order to integrate volunteer-based water quality and macroinvertebrate monitoring data into a centralized data hub, the Chesapeake Data Explorer. These data are publicly available and used by the Chesapeake Bay Program and state partners to assess the health of the Chesapeake Bay and watershed.


DC Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring

With thousands of people interacting with and recreating on waters in the District of Columbia (DC) each year, it’s essential for the public to have current water quality data that may directly impact their well-being and health. That’s where DC Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring comes in. The Alliance is one of four partner organizations that engage volunteers to collect weekly bacteria data at high recreation locations along the Potomac River, Anacostia River, and Rock Creek in DC. These data are shared with residents and visitors weekly allowing people to make informed decisions on how to recreate responsibly.


Restoration Monitoring

Along with CMC partners, the Alliance worked with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to develop a watershed-wide integrated community-based monitoring plan aimed at tracking changes in stream health conditions as a result of restoration projects implemented through NFWF’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund (CBSF). Developing a consistent watershed-wide monitoring method will not only meet NFWF’s goals, but enhance the ability for diverse partners (local watershed groups, landowners, localities, conservation districts) to utilize the data and highlight the success of this investment. The Restoration Monitoring project assesses the in-stream effects from the implementation of riparian forest buffers and stream restoration projects. This data will be used to assess status of conservation practices before and after implementation, develop case studies on the impact of conservation practices, and provide community engagement and education opportunities.


Benthic Monitoring

The Alliance and CMC partners coordinated with the USEPA, PA DEP, VA DEQ, and VASOS to develop a robust, volunteer-friendly protocol for benthic macroinvertebrate sample collection, consistent with methods used by agencies and institutions across the watershed. These data are meant to support a special study that will fill in data gaps within the Chesapeake Biological Index of Biotic Integrity (Chessie BIBI) and promote the ongoing assessment of Chesapeake Bay stream health. The CMC team currently works with existing monitoring groups to incorporate this collection protocol into their routine monitoring at sites within low or no data watersheds.



Launched in 1985, RiverTrends is the Alliance’s longest running volunteer project. This project provides training, equipment, and technical support for volunteers and organizations to conduct chemical and physical water quality monitoring in their communities. RiverTrends aims to track conditions of waterways in Virginia that flow into the Bay. Volunteers are encouraged to be stewards of their rivers and lands while providing valuable baseline water quality data.

Although these monitoring projects differ in their goals, they share a common thread: collecting water quality data is essential to understanding the health of the Chesapeake Bay! Our new blog series, Below the Surface, will take us on a deep dive into some of the main water quality indicators that are commonly tracked in these projects, including water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and water clarity. Stay tuned for more!