Wicomico River Creekwatchers

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Takeaways from 2020 sampling season data

In 2020, the river’s health remained impaired, but not dangerously so. In fact, the overall condition of the river continues its slow, incremental improvement. Nitrates were down in 2020, and clarity increased. Both are positive trends. However, phosphates and chlorophyll levels were increased.

Normally nitrates and phosphates trend upward or downward in parallel, but not in 2020. Chlorophyll increased, but not to the level of eutrophication.

Some changes in the program and sampling regime were implemented in 2020. The number of sampling sites increased to 26. The sites were grouped into hydrologic zones for more meaningful interpretations relative to the transition between fresh and salty waters within the watershed. In 2020 we began measuring not just depth of clarity, but also total water depth, to help us better understand trends in turbidity (cloudiness). Funding allowed for upgraded lab and field equipment, including a move to digital thermometers for field volunteers. These upgrades should provide more nuance in the resulting data.

What all of this means is future improvements in river health will require addressing the two main culprits: residual lawn & septic runoff, and agricultural runoff. This means some uncomfortable conversations will be necessary, and agricultural ditches will need to be monitored to assess surface runoff. Upgrades of septic tanks, or reduction in the number of private septic systems, would be helpful. Greater coordination between county and municipal governments would also be beneficial.

For more detailed information and breakdowns with comparisons to previous years’ data, click below on the 2020 report button.

What is creekwatchers?

The mission of the Creekwatchers Program is to collect and develop objective, scientifically credible water quality data by recruiting and mobilizing a grassroots volunteer force that monitors the waters of the Wicomico River and its tributaries on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore.  Creekwatchers seek to advance efforts of citizens, businesses, students and public officials to ensure that public policies and other management tools adequately protect and preserve Wicomico River water quality.  Wicomico Creekwatchers monitor 25 sites throughout the Wicomico River watershed.

Creekwatchers’ trained volunteers have been monitoring the Wicomico River’s health since 2002. Bi-weekly, from March through early-November, these dedicated residents visit their assigned sampling sites throughout the watershed to collect water samples, measure water depth and clarity, and record a variety of site conditions. All samples and data are delivered to Salisbury University and analyzed for total nitrogen, nitrates, total phosphorus, phosphates, salinity, chlorophyll a, and at some sites, bacteria levels. The results of each parameter are compiled at the close of each season and an annual report is released.

Consider joining our team to sample a site or volunteer to help WET with logistical support.  For further information or to volunteer in any of these capacities, contact Susan Parker at 443-783-1190 or email: creekwatchers@gmail.com