Monitor Water Quality & Wildlife

More than 100,000 streams, creeks, and rivers thread through the Chesapeake Bay watershed sending about 51 billion gallons of fresh water into the Bay each day! Unfortunately, due to agricultural & urban stormwater runoff, erosion and wastewater overflow, excess nutrients, sediment, litter and chemical contaminants often tag along for the ride. Excess nutrients fuel the growth of harmful algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses and lead to low-oxygen dead zones that suffocate marine life. Suspended sediment blocks sunlight from reaching underwater grasses, smothers oysters and other bottom-dwelling species, and clogs ports and channels. Litter and chemical contaminants like pesticides pose serious health risks to both humans and wildlife. Take action!

Monitor Wildlife:  Creeks and streams provide vital habitat for many aquatic species, including anadromous fish species like shad & sturgeon (that spend their adult lives in the ocean but migrate into freshwater rivers and streams to spawn), turtles & amphibians, aquatic insects, mammals, birds and important plants & grasses.  Diverse communities of benthic organisms like clams, crustaceans, insect larvae & worms found on the bottom of rivers and streams form an important link in the food web, and act as an indicator of watershed health.

Monitor Water Quality:  Monitoring data can reveal changes in pollution levels and trends over time that provide valuable knowledge to policy makers and conservationists and improve our understanding of the Bay and its tributaries.  Collecting and sharing water quality data strengthens Bay-wide efforts to provide the most accurate and reliable representations of Bay water quality.

Conduct Projects to Improve Water Quality:  Don’t stop at monitoring – take action! Conduct a stream clean-up! Install rain barrels, rain gardens, green roofs and more to slow and filter stormwater! Plant a forest buffer next to a stream! Learn more about monitoring projects below and about projects to improve water quality on our Clean Water Projects page!

Before You Start

Overview: Project Planning Basics

Find a Local Waterway:

  • Field Scope (switch the basemap to topo)
  • Model My Watershed
  • EPA Surf Your Watershed
  • Design and Preparation

    Find Local Monitoring Opportunities


    Save Our Streams Data Monitoring Forms

    USGS Streamflow, Hydrographs & Water Data

    Identify Stream Wildlife, Plants & Macroinvertebrates

    Plan a Stream or River Clean-Up Event

    Clean Water Projects to Restore & Protect Your Stream

    Using Your Project

    Bay Backpack: Rivers and Streams Lessons & Activities

    Bay Backpack: Water Monitoring Lessons & Activities

    Bay Backpack: Land Use Lessons & Activities

    Project WILD: Aquatic

    Project WET: Water Education for Teachers

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Eco School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)