Why monitor?

Our water quality programs at Anacostia Riverkeeper are built on community science, also known as citizen science. We recruit a diverse group of volunteers from all across the Anacostia watershed each year to help us collect samples and investigate our waterways to track their health. In the Anacostia, we focus on monitoring bacteria levels, which is the main concern in order to make waters safe and healthy for recreation. 

What is community science?

Unlike traditional science programs, community science refocuses the scientific process in the communities we serve. Our programs aim to inform local communities about the health of their waterways. So, it only makes sense to involve our community through all stages of the program – from site selection and field sampling to data sharing and communication.

Community science provides an opportunity for citizens to actively participate in environmental protection and conservation. By being involved in the monitoring process people become more aware of the importance of clean water and feel a greater sense of connection to their environment. It also ensures an avenue for the voices of our community to be heard to direct our work and decision making.

By involving the community, we can monitor a wider region across the watershed and create a sustainable monitoring program. Last year, we engaged over 90 volunteers and monitored 17 sites on the Anacostia in DC, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County. Without our volunteer monitors, collection of this data would not be possible!

How is our water quality data used?

The data our community scientists collect provides up-to-date, accurate information about the Anacostia’s water quality that is vital to the restoration of the river. This data is useful in three main ways:

  1. Inform Community Members in Real Time: Providing publicly accessible water quality data each week helps inform community members about the health of the water in their neighborhood or favorite recreation spot so they have the information they need to enjoy the Anacostia in a fun and safe environment.
  2. Raise Awareness About Baseline Water Quality Data: Gathering a baseline of water quality data can help identify specific areas of concern that may not have been previously detected and identify trends in water quality over time across the watershed.
  3. Inform Policy to Improve Water Quality: Our data is used to inform policy that improves water quality on the Anacostia. We help identify illegal sewage discharges and sewage overflows, direct government attention to sites with the most need for remediation, and help track the progress of remediation efforts.

Become a monitor!

Participating in community science is an easy way to become involved in your local environment – anyone can become a community scientist. There’s no experience or skills required. We provide training to teach monitors about the water quality in our waterways and how to collect water quality samples. Volunteers can sign up for as many or as few weeks as they want.

We encourage everyone to get involved in our community science programs! As a volunteer water quality monitor, you will:

  1. Make a Difference: You will be directly involved in protecting and improving the health of the Anacostia River. Your data will help increase awareness about the importance of water quality and directly inform policy decisions.
  2. Learn New Things: You will have the opportunity to learn about water systems, water quality, pollution, and environmental issues. You will also develop new skills – from field sampling to data sharing – that can be applied in many other areas in life.
  3. Meet New People: We encourage volunteers to monitor in pairs or small groups. You will work alongside like-minded individuals who share your passion for the environment and meet new people in your community.
  4. Have Fun: Many of our monitoring sites are located in parks around DC and Maryland. Monitoring provides a great opportunity to work outdoors, connect with nature, and explore a new area!

We’d love to have you join our monitoring team! Check out our Water Quality Monitoring page to learn more about our programs and sign-up to be a volunteer monitor!