Creekwatchers Program

Contact Beth Wasden for more info about the Nanticoke Creekwatchers Program.

Want to download or view Creekwatchers data? Check out the Chesapeake Explorer website, which is part of the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative. Our program data from 2017 to 2021.

About the Nanticoke Creekwatchers:

The Nanticoke Watershed Alliance’s Creekwatchers Citizen Monitoring Program began in July 2007. The 2007 was a partial pilot season; the program’s first full season began in 2008. The program’s primary goal is to accumulate long-term, scientifically credible data and to monitor the health of the Nanticoke River and the Fishing Bay headwaters. In 2017, the program obtained Tier 3 certification of its methodology, which means that data can be used for management and policy decisions by state and federal agencies.

From the beginning, we knew that the program was ambitious. With over 725,000 acres, the Nanticoke and Fishing Bay watersheds encompass five counties in two states. But we wanted to transcend political boundaries and take the “watershed perspective”–after all, water doesn’t know when it passes from one state to the next. And with the generosity of DNREC and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, we became funded to operate in both states. Other funders and in-kind donors have included the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Rommel’s ACE Hardware, RSVP of Sussex County, Delaware, and the Lower Shore of Maryland.

Over the years, we have worked with a number of partners who provide a degree of rigor and accountability that we would have never been able to achieve on our own. Envirocorp Labs in Harrington, Delaware, donates all testing services. Johns Hopkins University assisted with data management and analytical services during the first couple of years of the program. We’ve received technical training and support from the National Park Service, DNREC, MD DNR, the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science’s Integration and Application Network, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Salisbury University, and Horn Point Labs.

In the past years, this program has surpassed all of our expectations. Creekwatchers monitor 35 sites throughout the watershed (including four in the Fishing Bay headwaters) every other week from late March through early November; their level of engagement and commitment is extraordinary. With the equipment and training provided, volunteers have literally transformed into a team of citizen scientists, going far beyond simple collection of a water sample to actually getting much of the data themselves. Certain parameters – water clarity, dissolved oxygen, salinity or conductivity, and temperature – are measured on-site using a Secchi disk and other field instruments. Samples are also collected to be analyzed for nutrients, bacteria, and chlorophyll a. Results of this program will help evaluate eutrophication trends and potential hazards to human health. Our volunteer program’s quality assurance plan is the first to receive EPA approval, which says a lot about our volunteers and the thorough nature of this program.

People throughout the watershed have “come out of the woodwork” to donate their time, skills and passion to make our citizen monitoring program what it has become. The fruits of this labor is an annual “Nanticoke River Report Card.” Each season’s data helps us understand the present health of the river, while accumulated data allows us to identify potential trends. We share our data with other organizations, government agencies, and members of the public.

The Nanticoke Creekwatchers Citizen Monitoring Program is one of the keystone efforts of the Alliance – the work of its participants will help define the direction our Alliance goes in the future. We will be able to focus restoration activities and work in conjunction our other keystone initiative, Green Infrastructure, to strengthen our impact and more fully enable us to fulfill our mission to preserve the Nanticoke River.

To learn more about the program or to become a Creekwatcher, contact Beth Wasden, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator.