The Nanticoke Watershed Alliance (NWA) tidal water quality monitoring program has achieved the highest standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program (EPA CBP). Working through the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative (CMC), the NWA’s water quality monitoring program was reviewed and audited by the EPA CBP’s Data Integrity Workgroup in the fall of 2016. The role of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Integration and Application Network is to facilitate the review and auditing process so that groups can become Tier III.
The review and audit found that NWA volunteers are collecting high quality data that is equivalent to the EPA CBP’s own tidal water quality monitoring program. This means that the NWA water quality data can be used by state and federal agencies in the highest level assessments, such as identifying whether the dissolved oxygen levels are sustainable for fish and other animals living in the Nanticoke River and its tributaries.
CMC has been developing the building blocks of a multi-state data collection initiative – the first of its kind in the nation. In 2014, Alliance for Chesapeake Bay, in collaboration with Dickinson College’s Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, Izaak Walton League of America, and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science was awarded a six-year grant to integrate community collected data into bay-wide assessment and management strategies.
“The work of the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance clearly shows that volunteers can collect monitoring data that enables local, state, and federal agency partners to make better decisions when restoring streams and rivers throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Dr. Bill Dennison, Vice President for Science Applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
“The Nanticoke Creekwatchers have worked diligently for ten years to have their data accepted at such a high level,” said Beth Wasden, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance. “This accomplishment is thanks to not only this year’s group of citizen scientists but to all 100 Creekwatchers who have participated since the beginning of the program.”
The CMC was formed through a cooperative agreement with the EPA CBP to bring together volunteers and non-traditional organizations collecting water quality samples within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The aim of the CMC is to provide technical support for these groups, to help develop their monitoring programs and to incorporate their data into a central location that data users such as the EPA CBP, neighboring communities, and state agencies can use to get a more comprehensive look at the health of the Bay watershed and drive management decisions.
While the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance is the first to achieve the highest distinction possible through the new auditing process, the CMC is also working with a variety of organizations throughout the watershed on water quality and benthic macroinvertebrate (the bugs living in and on the sediment in streams and creeks) sampling efforts. More information on how to get involved in the Cooperative is available at chesapeakemonitoringcoop.org.
“Volunteers and local citizen scientists have been keeping an eye on the quality of our waters for many years, but there has never been an effective program that can evaluate and truly integrate these significant efforts into regional monitoring programs. As a result, data often goes unused,” said Al Todd, Executive Director of the Alliance who leads the CMC project. “Fortunately, the CMC is now providing that framework for successful integration of volunteer and non-traditional data into regional monitoring programs.”