2022 Water Quality Monitoring Summary

Published: November 17, 2022

End Of Season Water Quality Update

By Tom Guay, SRA Program Officer

Now that the 2022 water quality monitoring season has officially wrapped up for the year, we’d like to thank all our volunteers who’ve helped track conditions in the Severn this year. We hope to see you again in April 2023!

All our data will soon be posted on the Chesapeake Data Explorer as our program staff process and crunch the data and prepare a State Of The Severn Report. 

A special thanks goes out to our intrepid volunteers, like Lisa, Susan, Steve,  and Joanie, who braved some cold mornings in the last days of October to track conditions in the Severn River. 

Above, Lisa and Susan are offshore from a thick patch of phragmites that’s shrinking this stretch of marshland; and Capt. Steve records a 1.42 m clarity reading; on the right, Joanie and Capt. Steve, in the background, brave a cold breeze on Round Bay.

While it is too early to say how 2022 stacked up against prior years, we can say that in the last few weeks, most of the river enjoyed some outstanding water quality. From Round Bay downstream to the mouth of the river, our water quality volunteers recorded the following : 

  • clarity was nearly 5 feet (1.43 to 1.51 m)  
  • oxygen levels hovered around 8.80 mg/L (5 mg/L or higher is excellent), and 
  • after rising all season, salinity ended up in the 12.61- to 13.19-parts per thousand (ppt) and even topping out at 15.49 ppt – this is great news for oysters because they can reproduce when salinity is 10 ppt or higher. 

These figures all indicate great water quality for our favorite creatures who live in our watershed, and we’re glad to finish the season on a high note. 

But not all the news on the river was good. The upper section of river suffered all season long with poor clarity, dead zone activity, and algae blooms. This was most apparent around the Ben Oaks, Indian Landing, and Pointfield Landing Communities where algae blooms consistently turned the water various shades of brown, red and orange and clarity was consistently below 0.60 meters, which the Chesapeake Bay Program grades as an F. 

These poor conditions extended down through The Narrows, which also experienced persistent dead zone activity on the bottom half of the water column. 

Overall, conditions in Round Bay were much improved over the past two years, but the area still experienced some dead zone conditions at 4 of 5 monitoring stations. The bright exception was at Eaglenest Pt., offshore from the Round Bay Community. Oxygen, clarity and salinity levels here were consistently on par with water quality down river where our oyster restoration reefs are thriving. 

The mid-river creeks, the creeks of Whitehall Bay, Back Creek, and Lake Ogleton all echo the improvement in water quality noted in the mid-river creeks.  

The big news is salinity. We’ve had high salinity all year. Ranging 8 to 14 parts per thousand. This is excellent news for oyster restoration because oysters can naturally reproduce when salinity is 10 ppt or more.