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USGS Water Quality Projects

Click on the name of a project below to learn more about that project.


Equal-width increment (EWI) sampling at Northeast Branch Anacostia River, Maryland.
Equal-width increment (EWI) sampling at Northeast Branch Anacostia River, Maryland.

The lower reaches of the Anacostia River is surrounded by heavy urban land use, and the tidal Anacostia River is listed as one of three regions of concern by the USEPA Chesapeake Bay Program. This project expands the dataset of nutrient, E. coli bacteria, chloride, and suspended-sediment chemistry for the Northeast Branch Anacostia River at Riverdale, Maryland, which will be used by state, federal, and local cooperators to implement various water-quality controls for stream improvements. The information will document the status of nutrient enrichment, sediment, and bacterial contamination coming from the watershed.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Monitoring Water Quality in the Northeast Branch Anacostia River, Maryland.



Mattawoman Creek at the State Highway 227 bridge, and the placement of the streamflow instrumentation at USGS station 01658000, Mattawoman Creek near Pomonkey, Maryland.
Mattawoman Creek at the State Highway 227 bridge, and the placement of the streamflow instrumentation at USGS station 01658000, Mattawoman Creek near Pomonkey, Maryland.

Mattawoman Creek and its tidal and nontidal wetlands were identified in a 1981 Maryland Department of State Planning report on areas of Critical State Concern. Mattawoman Creek exceeds two Federal clean water requirements – nutrients and sediments – and is listed on the State's 303(d) list, which includes water bodies that are impaired and require the development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Data collected for this project, combined with existing data from other USGS studies as well as historical and ongoing monitoring by other state and Federal agencies, will provide valuable information for future management of the watershed.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Water-Quality Monitoring, Mattawoman Creek, Charles County, Maryland.



Murderkill River stream gaging station.
Murderkill River stream gaging station.

The Department of Public Works, Kent County, Delaware, and Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) need real-time discharge and water-quality data that can be used to determine changes in water-quality on a 6-minute interval basis and under different flow regimes to support water-quality assessments and model development by the Murderkill River Monitoring and Modeling Workgroup.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Continuous Real-Time Water-Quality Monitoring, Tide and Discharge Gage on the Murderkill River near Frederica, Delaware (USGS 01484080).



Water-quality monitor installed at Paint Branch next to field meter.
Water-quality monitor installed at Paint Branch next to field meter.

Paint Branch is a major tributary to the Anacostia River with stream segments that require Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for nutrients, sediment, biological integrity, and bacteria. This project expands the dataset of nutrient, E. coli bacteria, chloride, and suspended-sediment chemistry for Paint Branch near College Park, Maryland (USGS Site ID 01649190) which will be used by state, federal, and local cooperators to implement various water-quality controls for stream improvements. The USGS will maintain the water-quality and stream-gaging station on Paint Branch, sited on the property of the Garrison Adelphi Laboratory Center in Adelphi, Maryland. The information collected for this project will document the status of nutrient enrichment, sediment, and bacterial contamination coming from the watershed.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Monitoring for Water Quality and Quantity in Paint Branch, Maryland.



Streamgage at Plumtree Run near Bel Air, Maryland.
Streamgage at Plumtree Run near Bel Air, Maryland.

The Plumtree Run watershed is highly developed, including extensive commercial and residential lands and supporting roadways which comprise nearly 79% developed land (urban/suburban) and 50% impervious surface. The Harford County DPW, Water Resources, has developed a long-term restoration plan for the Plumtree Run watershed, which includes multiple stream-restoration activities.

Data collected for this study will provide baseline data of selected water-quality constituents and streamflow and will be used to document current water-quality conditions at Plumtree Run and improvements to water quality as pollution-control initiatives and stream-restoration activities are implemented in the watershed by Harford County.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Monitoring for Water Quality at Plumtree Run near Bel Air, Harford County, Maryland.



Muddy flow at Susquehanna River at Conowingo Dam, Maryland.
Muddy flow at Susquehanna River at Conowingo Dam, Maryland.

The decline in water quality of the Chesapeake Bay within the last few decades has, in large part, been attributed to excess nutrients entering the estuary from its surrounding tributaries. In an effort to improve the water quality of the Bay, federal, state, and local governments have initiated point and non-point source nutrient-reduction programs within the Bay’s tributary basins. The objective of this study is to quantify changes in water quality resulting in part from point and non-point source nutrient-reduction programs established within the Susquehanna, Potomac, Patuxent, and Choptank River basins.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Maryland River Input Monitoring Program.



Rock Creek water-quality monitoring site.
Rock Creek water-quality monitoring site.

Rock Creek, in Rock Creek Park, is an important stream resource to Montgomery County in Maryland and to the National Capitol Region. Rock Creek drains to the Potomac River and thus eventually to the Chesapeake Bay. Montgomery County, the State of Maryland, Washington, D.C., the National Park Service (NPS), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) protect this resource and continue to collect data to assess the health of the stream.

USGS and Montgomery County have been conducting research on stream chemistry and fish health for a number of years in Rock Creek. To address the needs of local governments that monitor water quality and fish health in the Park, the USGS collects nutrient, sediment, and bacteria data at Rock Creek. These data will benefit all supporting agencies by providing concentrations and loads of critical parameters in Rock Creek.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Water-Quality Monitoring in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C..



Sligo Creek, looking upstream from the pedestrian bridge.
Sligo Creek, looking upstream from the pedestrian bridge.

Sligo Creek is a tributary to the Northwest Branch Anacostia River. The Anacostia River has had Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) developed for sediment and fecal bacteria, and has recently been listed for chloride. Moreover, the Anacostia River flows through the Potomac River to Chesapeake Bay, which has its own nutrient TMDL.

While Sligo Creek is one of the most heavily-urbanized watersheds in the Anacostia watershed, Sligo Creek is also the target of considerable restoration effort and is home to an engaged constituency of environmentally-minded citizens.

Data collected for this study will be used to document current water-quality conditions at Sligo Creek and improvements to water quality as different pollution-control initiatives are implemented..

For more information, visit the project webpage: Monitoring for Water Quality at Sligo Creek near Takoma Park, Montgomery County, Maryland.



Real-time water-quality monitoring stream gage at Millsboro Pond Outlet at Millsboro, DE
Real-time water-quality monitoring stream gage at Millsboro Pond Outlet at Millsboro, DE

Several (5) streams in Delaware are on the 303(d) list because they do not meet criteria for dissolved-oxygen concentrations. Continuous real-time water-quality data can be used to understand changes in water-quality conditions on a 15-minute interval basis under different flow regimes and identify trends over longer periods. In addition, the data can be used to assess the efficacy of best management practices implemented in monitored watersheds.

The Brandywine Creek currently serves as a major source of drinking water for the City of Wilmington, Delaware. The City of Wilmington has a need for more intensive data collection to assess and protect the source waters within the Brandywine Creek watershed and to detect contaminated waters before they can potentially damage the existing water system and/or impact the quality of finished water supplied to the local citizens. Based on this, an early warning system was established monitoring turbidity in order to produce relations of turbidity to discharge.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Delaware Continuous Real-Time Water-Quality Monitoring at 5 Sites.



The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is following the recommendations of the Monitoring Realignment Action Team by providing support for new long-term water quality monitoring of small, urban streams in Washington, D.C. Water-quality monitoring includes nutrients, suspended sediment, dissolved trace metals (cadmium, copper, lead, zinc), and bacteria (Escherichia coli (E. coli)), in addition to continuous temperature, conductance, and turbidity measurements.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Data Collection for Trace Metals and Bacteria at Three USGS Sampling Stations in Washington, D.C..



The Chesapeake Bay Non-Tidal network supports monitoring programs across the bay's watershed. This network began with the River Input Monitoring Program, which monitors nine major tributaries to Chesapeake Bay. In recent years, the network has expanded to over 120 locations though an extended partnership.

Data are used to assess management practices and to measure progress towards meeting load reductions necessary to improve conditions in the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Water Quality Loads and Trends at Nontidal Monitoring Stations in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Map of Non-Tidal Network Monitoring Stations, Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Map of Non-Tidal Network Monitoring Stations, Chesapeake Bay watershed.

USGS Publication: Nutrient and Suspended-Sediment Trends, 
Loads, and Yields and Development of an Indicator of Streamwater Quality at Nontidal Sites in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, 1985-2010



USGS collects and analyzes water quality at selected sites in the Anacostia River and Rock Creek to assess human and natural impacts on the aquatic environments.

Using tools such as continuous data collection with water-quality data sondes, automatic samplers to provide detailed storm sampling, and models to extrapolate data over time, the team interprets stream processes and documents status and changes in water-quality conditions.

Data are used by the counties to satisfy MS4 permits and to track progress towards achieving TMDLs for impacted stream segments.

Anacostia River and Rock Creek water-quality monitoring stations in Washington D.C. and Maryland
Anacostia River and Rock Creek water-quality monitoring stations in Washington D.C. and Maryland

USGS Publication: Water Quality in the Anacostia River, Maryland and Rock Creek, Washington, D.C.: Continuous and Discrete Monitoring with Simulations to Estimate Concentrations and Yields of Nutrients, Suspended Sediment, and Bacteria




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