A Community Science Monitoring Success Story in the South River

A Community Science Monitoring Success Story in the South River

The Arundel Rivers Federation (created on January 2, 2019; the result of the consolidation of South River Federation and West/Rhode Riverkeeper, Inc.), in Annapolis, Maryland, and a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, was looking for a way to simplify their water monitoring data results for sharing with the general public. They did not have specific GIS capability on staff, and sought out the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center to assist with building a web app that could meet their needs.

They hoped to convey a few main concepts through displaying their data:

  • Pollution in the river comes from the local land
  • It’s not safe to swim after it rains
  • The rivers are fishable, but often do not have enough dissolved oxygen to maintain aquatic life
  • The Arundel Rivers Federation was working to fix the problems!

By instituting a greenyellow red (good – adequate – poor) color-coded data reporting scheme, the Federation and Conservancy simplified the understanding of water quality data, so anyone could look and understand the most-current, and historical water conditions.

Arundel Rivers Federation legend

The stoplight style, color-coded key helps simplify water quality measurements for easy communication with the public

Using a WordPress-based website, with a suite of simple plugins, including one that imports data from Excel spreadsheets, and ESRI’s ArcGIS API for JavaScript (plus a few more JavaScript libraries!), http://southriverdata.net was born. Not only does it display water quality (clarity, dissolved oxygen, and bacteria data) information, it also shows restoration project sites on land, where Arundel River Federation is actively working to improve water quality. Try visiting the web app for yourself and click on a station or restoration project to see more info!

A screenshot from the web app

An example of a monitoring station in the South River – containing historical data, current data, and clear information on when water quality was poor or good.

This web app, in conjunction with social media, serves as a valuable communication tool for the local community to become more informed about water quality conditions, AND it demonstrates where the Federation is spending their money, so it can be used as a tool to drive fundraising. They are monitoring the problems in the water, and implementing the solutions through restoration projects on the land. In considering something similar to this effective model, community monitoring organizations will be able to drive interest, awareness, and change in the communities they serve. Indeed, their web app has been admired by folks around the US, and even internationally, as seen below in their web traffic!


Map displaying website hits

Arundel River Federation’s water quality web app has been viewed by people across the country – and world!

Questions about Arundel Rivers Federation and its monitoring program may be directed to Nancy Merrill Sullivan, Volunteer and Outreach Program Coordinator, nancy@arundelrivers.org. Questions about the technical details of web app itself may be directed to Emily Wiggans, GIS Analyst, at the Chesapeake Conservancy, ewiggans@chesapeakeconservancy.org.

Arundel Rivers Federation logo