www.eyes on the bay.net - Water Quality Information for All

Map of current sites covered by monitoring. By Mark Trice
Weather dominates our lives. It controls how we work, live and play, and accounts for nearly 20 percent of the information presented in local newscasts. Many of us plan our daily activities by looking at a forecast. Will it snow? Will it be humid? What are the chances of rain for the weekend?

These are the questions people want answered about their climate, but where does one go to explore the “weather” in the aquatic environment of fish, oysters or bay grasses? The answer: Eyes on the Bay. (www.eyesonthebay.net).

Eyes on the Bay (EOTB)
A website of DNR’s Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment (TEA) Division, Eyes on the Bay (EOTB), provides easy access to near real-time, mapped and historical Chesapeake and Coastal Bays water quality information and data. Available data includes water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen (the amount of oxygen available for aquatic life), water clarity, chlorophyll (the amount of algae in the water), and pH levels (the acidity/alkalinity of the water).

When visitors arrive at EOTB, they access a map illustrating the locations and types of monitoring sites throughout the state. Users can then click on a monitoring location -- perhaps near home or a favorite fishing spot -- and obtain recent data for that site.

Three types of monitoring data can be retrieved at EOTB.

  • Monthly - -This data has been collected once or twice monthly for more than 18 years (two years for Coastal Bays data) at 80 tidal sites. Information from 25 of these sites is currently accessible at EOTB, via charts that compare current and historical conditions.
  • Continuous Monitoring - Water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, chlorophyll and pH data is collected every 15 minutes at 11 stations (expanding to more than 20 stations later this year) by remote continuous monitors. Selected sites are updated twice daily, while the remaining sites are updated weekly. Most monitors operate from early spring to late fall.
  • Water Quality Mapping – Water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll data are collected continuously, every four seconds, from a small, moving boat. High-resolution maps of water quality data are currently available for the Magothy and Severn Rivers, and more systems will be added this year.
New Technologies
Maryland DNR is on the forefront of using new monitoring technologies, such as continuous and spatial monitors, to assess water quality. Continuous monitors are cost effective tools that allow DNR scientists to have a 24-hour a day monitoring presence, providing insight into the highly variable conditions that exist in the Bay. Water quality mapping technologies improve this data’s spatial resolution, enabling DNR to determine the extent and impact of harmful conditions such as low dissolved oxygen or algal blooms. New technologies also allow for timely and relevant data to be provided in a compelling format through the EOTB website.

More Than Just Data
DNR understands that not all Eyes on the Bay visitors may be familiar with the interpretation of water quality data. “What Does It All Mean? explains the various data collected, why it is important for diagnosing the health of our bays, and how it might vary from season to season. Using data from the website, monitoring “stories” highlight important or unusual water quality events and their relationship to habitat. For further assistance, Ask the Expert will put you in touch with a DNR water quality professional.

Who Benefits from Using Eyes on the Bay?
A variety of groups will find the Eyes on the Bay website useful and engaging. Citizens and local environmental groups can easily monitor the changes in water quality near their homes or region of interest. Anglers can use the data to determine water temperatures and salinities in their favorite fishing regions. For teachers and students, the site includes lesson plans on Chesapeake Bay water quality, complete with in-class exercises. Finally, scientists, managers and policymakers can use the site as a first stop for water quality data and trends.

How Does DNR Use Water Quality Data?
One of the many monitoring devices found throughout the Bay region. Eyes on the Bay is far more than a tool for the public to access monitoring data; it is also used to make important decisions regarding placement of habitat restoration projects, management of harmful algal blooms and development of long-term Chesapeake Bay management plans.

Ultimately, Eyes on the Bay monitoring programs address four important objectives: they characterize existing conditions; detect changes and trends in key water quality variables in response to management actions; explain the processes of Bay ecosystem functions as they relate to anthropogenic and natural stresses; and determine the relationships between water quality and living resources.

For more information on our Bay monitoring programs, see http://www.dnr.state.md.us/bay/monitoring/index.html.

Visit Eyes on the Bay (www.eyesonthebay.net) for current Maryland water quality information and data throughout the year.

Mark Trice...
is a Research Statistician and GIS specialist in DNR’s Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Division. Mark has worked for DNR since 2001 and has been involved in Chesapeake Bay-related research for nearly 15 years. Mark also provided the photos for this article.

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