New Technology Helps the Public Answer: How Healthy Is the South River?

South River Federation Partners with Chesapeake Conservancy to Develop New Online Water Quality Map

Annapolis, Md. – The South River Federation based in Edgewater, works to protect, preserve, restore and celebrate the South River. The Federation recently launched a new online water quality map built in partnership with the Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Annapolis, Md.

The interactive South River Data Map helps visualize data from water quality samples. Information collected by Federation staff and volunteers concerning bacteria levels, dissolved oxygen, and water clarity is computed to help answer the following questions:

  1. Is it safe to swim?
  2. Can fish breathe?
  3. How dirty is the water?

“Over the last 15 years of stewardship, we have amassed a great deal of data and information about the health of the South River,” Federation Executive Director Elizabeth Buxton said. “We turned to the Chesapeake Conservancy for the technical expertise to help visualize this information for the public. Together, we built a one-stop-shop for anyone wondering if it’s safe to swim or where our current restoration projects are taking place.”

“We create technology solutions to help organizations like South River Federation spend less time on technology and more time on conservation. Information is power, but only if it is presented in a way that people can use. With this tool, the South River Federation can empower the public with the most up-to-date information about the health of the river,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said.

“With more centralized and consolidated data, South River Federation now has the ability to quickly mine their data for new insights to prioritize and guide their work moving forward,” Chesapeake Conservancy Director of Conservation Technology Jeffrey Allenby said. “This is a project that can be replicated for other rivers of the Chesapeake.”

The web map (inset) displays the past year average water quality conditions at each sampling location using a simple three-color classification scheme: green for good; yellow for adequate; and red for poor. This visualization is available for bacteria, dissolved oxygen, and clarity, three of the most important water quality parameters. With this system, users can understand water quality trends at a glance. In addition, users can view the locations of restoration projects completed by SRF.

When selected, more detailed information is available for each sampling location and restoration project, including line graphs reflecting historical trends. A full description, photos, and commentary on the observations is easily accessible on the right-hand panel. At launch, there are 55 sampling locations and 44 restoration projects available to explore. See South River Data Map:


Chesapeake Conservancy’s mission is to strengthen the connection between people and the watershed; conserve the landscapes and special places that sustain the Chesapeake’s unique natural and cultural resources; and restore landscapes, rivers, and habitats in the Chesapeake Bay region. We empower the conservation community with access to the latest data and technology. As principal partner for the National Park Service on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, we helped create 132 new public access sites and permanently protect some of the Bay’s special places like Werowocomoco, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Fort Monroe National Monument.

The South River Federation, located in Edgewater, Maryland, is a local environmental non-profit whose mission is to protect, preserve, restore, and celebrate the South River watershed and its interdependent community.  The Federation believes in a holistic approach to cleaning up the South River.  We utilize all available tools, ranging from scientific water quality monitoring, to rain garden installation, to large-scale stream restoration, to one-on-one landowner education. Our restoration efforts are locally focused and are driven and informed by sound science.