Restoration & Monitoring

Citizen Water Quality Monitoring

RiverTrends: Citizen Water Quality Monitoring

The Alliance Citizen Monitoring program is a regional network of more than 145 trained volunteers who perform weekly water quality tests that help track the condition of waters flowing toward the Chesapeake Bay. These dedicated volunteers monitor rivers across the Chesapeake region in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Some have worked with the Alliance for more than ten years, watching their rivers through the seasons and regularly submitting the valuable data they collect.

Launched in 1985, the Citizen Monitoring Program originally was designed to test the possibility of including a permanent, Bay-wide volunteer monitoring network among the long-term Bay management strategies of state and federal governments. The Alliance’s Citizen Monitoring Program has done that and more.

We have demonstrated that citizen volunteers can collect water quality data that meet strict standards; our data has provided a valuable supplement to state and federal databases.

Along the way, the Alliance has become a leader in volunteer monitoring programs. Our program coordinators have shared sampling procedures, reporting formats, and a specialized computer data management system with environmental groups across the country.

In 1991, the Citizen Monitoring Program won a special merit award as part of Renew America’s national awards program and is now listed in their Environmental Success Index, a descriptive collection of more than 1200 nationally verified and recognized environmental success stories.

Along with weekly tests for dissolved oxygen, pH, water clarity, and other parameters, volunteer monitors also have participated in special projects. For example, because excess nutrients are the major problem facing the Chesapeake Bay, some monitors participated in a nutrient sampling program on the Upper James, Piankatank, and York rivers in Virginia; the Conestoga River in Pennsylvania; and the Patuxent River in Maryland. In Pennsylvania, volunteers assisted in preparing an inventory of streamside forest buffers in the Conodoguinet Creek watershed.

In 1996, the Alliance initiated an innovative restoration project that combines our experience with habitat restoration and volunteer monitoring. In partnership with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Alliance is working with volunteers to transplant and monitor underwater grasses at two sites on St. Mary’s River in Maryland, where Bay grasses once thrived. Bay grasses provide critical habitat for blue crabs and other living resources. Volunteers also are testing a number of other shoreline sites to determine if the water quality meets habitat quality objectives.

Citmon Data:

Alliance Citizen Monitoring Database

For more information contact: or call 804-775-0951.

Citizen Monitoring Resources