District of Columbia Water Quality Monitoring Program

Our water quality monitoring program in DC uses citizen scientist volunteers to collect water quality samples in the Anacostia River, Potomac River, and Rock Creek from May to September each year. The program started in 2019 with funding from the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) covering 22 sites across all of DC’s major waterways. To help us in this project we work with Rock Creek Conservancy, Audubon Naturalist Society, Potomac Riverkeeper, and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to help us train our volunteers, spread the word, and help our volunteers collect samples. We post water quality results for bacteria, turbidity, pH, water temperature, and air temperature weekly in order to provide up-to-date water quality information for residents and visitors to DC during the recreational season (May to September). We aim to get water quality information into the hands of the people who need it most: YOU

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The environmental issues that we face in our daily lives are often seen as too complex to know where to offer help. Maria and I have been avid hikers and we recently retired to DC. Trying to begin to connect with those involved with nature, we became active with The Audubon Naturalist Society. The programs they offered gave us direction we needed. The Bacteria Monitoring project helped us to feel that in some way we were contributing to making a difference.

Maria Sola-Simon and Michael Simon, DC Citizen Science Water Quality Volunteers

Why Are We Monitoring?

Washington DC is home to over 700,000 residents, with another 7 million calling the DC metropolitan area (DC/MD/VA) home. Built at the confluence of two major waterways, Washington DC has always been a city ruled by water. The Anacostia River, Potomac River, and Rock Creek all flow through the nations capital, serving as one of the most popular water recreation areas in the U.S., as well as lying adjacent to some of the best trail systems, parks, and natural beauty in the U.S.. Unfortunately for the District’s waterways, an abundance of people and use often mean increased pollution and environmental degradation if not treated properly. Even swimming in DC’s waterways is illegal, only in recent years have permitted swim events been allowed on DC portions of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. We at Anacostia Riverkeeper believe that clean water is a right for all those who live and play near these waterbodies. The purpose of this project is to provide weekly, up-to-date water quality results for the District’s major waterways (Anacostia, Potomac, Rock Creek) during the primary recreational season in order provide residents and visitors all the information they need to enjoy our waters safely.

What Are We Monitoring?

Our water quality programs focus on the primary water quality parameters that may affect recreation, personal health, and safety while interacting with DC waters. We collect primary water quality data on fecal bacteria (E. Coli and fecal coliform), turbidity, pH, water temperature, air temperature, as well as physical characteristics of the monitoring site (e.g., weather, water flow, tide, etc.). Discover more detail about the water quality parameters we collect and how they can affect water quality HERE.

Who Does the Monitoring?

You do the monitoring! All water quality data is collected by citizen scientist volunteers who have been trained under our “DC Citizen Science Water Quality Training Program”. Citizen scientists are trained by project staff in April of each year, at the end of which they are provided a certificate certifying them as “DC Water Quality Citizen Scientists” by Anacostia Riverkeeper and the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE). Volunteers can choose to monitor as little or as much as they want during the monitoring season from May to September each year.

2019 Year in Review

34%

Average Bacteria Passing Rate for Anacostia Sites

This is the average amount of times that sites on the Anacostia met DC water quality standards for E. Coli bacteria in DC waters

0.7%

Average Bacteria Passing Rate for Rock Creek Sites

This is the average amount of times that sites on the Rock Creek met DC water quality standards for E. Coli bacteria in DC waters

49%

Average Bacteria Passing Rate for Potomac Sites

This is the average amount of times that sites on the Potomac met DC water quality standards for E. Coli bacteria in DC waters

Current DC Water Quality Results

Funder

Project Partners