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Water Quality Mapping Project Description

Resource managers rely upon habitat and water quality monitoring data to characterize problem areas in a watershed and to detect changes related to management strategies to reduce nutrients and sediments on a tributary to Bay-wide level.  Traditional monitoring programs have collected periodic data at a small number of fixed sampling locations, often in the deeper channel areas. These measurements provide a good baseline for watershed assessment and long-term trends, but may miss small-scale gradients in water quality and neglect shallow water habitats that are critical habitat for submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and other living resources.

SAV, Severn River

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, Severn River

In the past, intensive water quality monitoring of these shallow water habitats has been time and cost-prohibitive.  The advent of a new suite of technologies known as the DATAFLOW water quality monitoring system, however, has brought intensive monitoring of shallow water habitats into reach.  DATAFLOW is a system of shipboard water quality probes that measure spatial position, water depth, water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity (clarity of the water), and chlorophyll (indicator of plankton concentrations) from a flow-through stream of water collected near the water body’s surface (View Pictures and Description of the DATAFLOW Instrumentation).  This system allows data to be collected rapidly (approximately every 4 seconds) and while the boat is traveling at speeds up to 20 knots.  Because the DATAFLOW system is compact, it can be housed on a small boat, enabling sampling in shallow water and the ability to map an entire small Bay tributary in less than a day. Typical DATAFLOW research cruise sampling paths traverse shallow and channel areas in a “right angle” wave-like pattern to obtain a full characterization of a tributary’s water quality.

Results from DATAFLOW can address many of the key management issues addressed in the Chesapeake Bay 2000 Agreement.   DATAFLOW habitat parameters such as turbidity can be correlated to the spatial coverage of SAV to: determine water clarity criteria necessary to support SAV growth, address the progress of meeting ambitious SAV restoration goals, and target specific areas for successful SAV restoration. Spatially extensive DATAFLOW data can also be used to identify localized areas of water quality concern within watersheds, such as areas of low dissolved oxygen that can cause fish kills, and its possible linkages with nearby land usage. Data can also be used to aggregate across watersheds units to aid in the evaluation of entire systems.

In 2016, the Water Quality Mapping Program will cover 4 segments of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Back River, C&D Canal, Segment CB2OH and Corsica River will be mapped. Visit the DATAFLOW Page to view integrated maps of DATAFLOW-collected data or Eyes on the Bay to access all of Maryland DNR's online tidal water quality data.

Eyes on the Bay Map Picture

Eyes on the Bay Station Map - Click to go to Eyes on the Bay

Maryland DNRChesapeake Biological LaboratoryVirginia Department of Environmental QualityVirginia Institute of Marine Science, and the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program are working together to use DATAFLOW and continuous monitors to assess shallow water habitats and dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and water clarity criteria for the Chesapeake Bay. These organizations work together to develop consistent data collection protocols and conduct optimal analyses to characterize water quality and guide Chesapeake Bay management plans.

Water Quality Mapping sampling design, data collection and data QA/QC are performed by Maryland DNR and Walter Boynton's research group at the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Studies, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.  The original DATAFLOW equipment design was conceived by Christopher Madden and refined by Dr. Boynton's group.  Funding for this project is provided by the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

MD DNR logo                 UMCES logo                       CBP logo

For More Information on Water Quality Mapping,
Contact: Eyes on the Bay