December 11, 2014 / by Josh

Mapping Water Quality and Pollution with Blue Water Baltimore

Earlier this week Chesapeake Commons and Viable Industries completed work on Harbor Alert, a new web application that helps residents in Baltimore city better understand how their local water quality stacks up against State and Federal standards for ecological and human health. Users are able to browse through near-real time water quality reports from Blue Water Baltimore and access timely bacteria data to make informed decisions about water-contact.

Harbor Alert is a central component of Blue Water Baltimore and the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative. Under this work, David Flores, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, routinely monitors the Tidal Patapsco, Jones Falls and Gwynns Falls watersheds to provide a constant pulse on the overall health of Baltimore’s major waterways. The Ambient Water Quality Monitoring Program samples 22 locations on the Tidal Patapsco River biweekly between the beginning of April and the end of November each year, and also samples 27 locations on the Jones Falls and Gwynns Falls on a monthly basis year-round. Monitoring activities include collection of whole-water samples for third-party laboratory analysis and collection of data readings using the latest field instrumentation technology. The data collected as a result of the Healthy Harbor Initiative is used to generate the annual Healthy Harbor Report Card, and to produce water-quality assessments for scenarios ranging from short-term pollution incidents to long-term multi-year trend analyses.

“It is just the type of tool that Baltimore’s students and teachers can use in the classroom to learn about watershed science, water chemistry, and to observe ecological phenomena, such as algae blooms, in near real-time.” - Adam Lindquist, Healthy Harbor Manager for Waterfront Partnership

Harbor Alert currently consists of 3 years of tidal and nontidal monitoring data; equating to over 1,200 readings! The new application is powered by our own open source software, Commons Cloud which enables staff to easily update and maintain data on a record by record basis. Now in an open and extensible format, Harbor Alert data can be better leveraged to inform the public and environmental professionals of the health of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and its tributaries. Harbor Alert is one of the citizen monitoring efforts that follows truly open data standards, making it simple to inject the data into HTML pages through a variety of visualizations like the chart above.

“We hope that community leaders, policy-makers, and everyone passionate about clean water will use the HARBOR ALERT website to help raise awareness and interest in their communities for reducing water pollution and to make informed decisions before kayaking or swimming in their local river.” - Alice Volpitta, Water Quality Manager for Blue Water Baltimore

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