Water Quality Monitoring

Monitoring water quality is an important part of assessing the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Monitoring data can reveal changes in pollution levels and trends over time that provide valuable knowledge to policy makers and conservationists. It can also improve our understanding of the natural environment.

The Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program is a cooperative, Bay-wide effort to provide the most accurate and reliable representations of Bay water quality. The program reports, tracks and models stream flow and concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment across the watershed. The monitoring network consists of 120 stream flow gauges and water quality sampling sites. Monitoring data has been collected over multiple decades from these monitoring stations, and provides direct measures of water quality conditions and biological responses.

Tidal Monitoring

The Chesapeake Bay tidal monitoring network includes the following:

  • Tidal water quality monitoring for 26 parameters at over 150 stations distributed over the 92 Chesapeake Bay tidal segments across Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia
  • Shallow water monitoring addressing a select set of segments on a rotational basis
  • Benthic infaunal community monitoring at fixed and random stations across the tidal waters
  • Annual aerial and ground surveys of underwater Bay grasses
  • Decadal records of phytoplankton and zooplankton monitoring
  • Fisheries independent population monitoring programs and surveys

Non-Tidal Monitoring

  • Measure and assess the status and trends of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment concentrations and loads in major tributaries and subwatersheds and selected tributary strategy basins
  • Provide data suitable for the assessment of factors affecting nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment status and trends from major pollutant source sectors
  • Measure and assess the effects of targeted management and land-use change
  • Improve calibration and verification of the partners’ watershed models
  • Support spatial and topical prioritization of pollutant reduction, restoration, and preservation actions