Water Quality Monitoring

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Tools to track progress towards improving water quality in the Severn River!

The Severn River gets pounded year round by a polluted mix of stormwater runoff, fecal bacteria from pets, septic systems and wildlife, sediment plumes from rapid development, loss of vegetation and tree cover and severe weather events that flood our waters with sediment and nutrient pollution.

As rural areas turned suburban and then urban, the Severn lost its ability to bound back from these challenges. Instead, the river suffers from algae blooms, bacterial infestations, and nutrient overloading during every rain event. These factors that have created permanent, oxygen-depleted conditions in our river. Without oxygen, the fishery dies. Fish and crabs swim and sidle away and leave our river. Oysters can’t swim away, so without oxygen, they suffocate in these hypoxic conditions.

Result: The Severn River is declared “impaired” by EPA, which imposes a “pollution diet” to reduce the flood of pollutants. Anne Arundel County offers its own remedies. Regulations adopted. Stormwater fees collected to restore infrastructure and feeder streams to get control over the pollution problem.

Are any of these solutions working?


Real data of actual conditions in the Severn are needed to gauge whether solutions are working.

Computer modeling can only get to a best-guess of what conditions are like in a waterway. The only way to really know whether we’re making any progress towards improving water quality – especially reducing the scale of the dead zones – is to collect real data, water quality monitoring data, from the river itself.

This is why the Severn River Association has partnered with the Severn Riverkeeper to collect weekly data readings to paint a portrait of the water column at 14 locations. Under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Muller, SRA Board Member and Associate Professor of Oceanography at the U. S. Naval Academy, the Severn River Association and the Severn Riverkeeper visit the sites weekly to collect data on dissolved oxygen levels, salinity, pH, temperature and clarity.


U.S. Naval Academy, Severn River Association, Severn Riverkeeper


Program Goal

Collect water quality monitoring data that tracks actual conditions in the Severn River water column

Program Outcomes

  • Collect high-quality data that reveals actual conditions in the Severn River water column
  • Raise public awareness about the condition of water quality in the river
  • Use data to support regulatory, policy and legal decisions designed to reduce pollution levels in the river and improve water quality
  • Support enforcement actions based on collection of top-quality water quality data
  • Create long-term record of water conditions
  • Produce annual report cards on the State Of The Severn River as a means of educating the public about progress towards restoring the river to fishable and swimmable goals of the Clean Water Act.

It’s easy to get involved with the water quality monitoring project. Volunteers are needed from May through October for weekly tours of the river.

For more information, email: