Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Programs

As part of the Federal-Interstate Chesapeake Bay Program, the Commonwealth of Virginia is engaged in extensive water quality and biological monitoring of the Bay and its major tributaries. The objectives of these programs are the characterization of current conditions, identification of long-term trends, and the improvement in our understanding of processes that control water quality. Including measurements of both plankton and benthos is an important step towards determining the relationship between water quality and living resources. The results of these monitoring programs will provide a measurement of the success of management actions toward the protection and restoration of the Bay. Reports are available on the results of this monitoring program.

Water Quality Monitoring Program

The Water Quality Monitoring Program is the largest, most complex and best coordinated component of the Federal-Interstate Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program. A key factor in the establishment of this program in 1984 was the need to obtain long-term data related to nutrient enrichment of the Bay and its tributaries. The coordination of water quality and biological programs with similar programs in other Bay watershed jurisdictions is accomplished through the Federal-Interstate Chesapeake Bay Program Monitoring Subcommittee. This coordination allows for Baywide assessments of conditions, trend analysis and modeling efforts.

In Virginia, there are five fall line, 35 non-tidal water quality stations, 34 tidal tributary water quality stations and 27 tidal main Bay swater quality station stations. The non-tidal stations are sampled 12 to 20 times per years, the tidal tributary stations are sampled monthly. The tidal main Bay stations are sampled monthly September through May, and twice per month in June through August.  Water quality measurements include riverflow, secchi depth, temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon and silica.

Plankton Monitoring Program

This program examines the floating phytoplankton (algae) found in the Bay and its tributaries. The plankton form the basis of the food web which supports the entire Bay ecosystem. The plankton community responds quickly to changes in water quality and will be among the first components of the Bay ecosystem to respond to management actions.The current program, which started in 1985, monitors 6 tributary and 7 Bay stations 12 times per year.

Benthic Monitoring Program

Benthic organism, such as shellfish and worms, live in the sediment of the Bay and its rivers. Benthos are excellent indicators of water quality and are an important food resource for many fish.

This program was implemented in 1985 and collects samples each summer from 5 fixed sites in the Bay and 14 fixed sites in the tributaries. There is also a stratified random sampling component which samples 25 sites within each of the James, Rappahannock, York, and Bay mainstem.  

For information on the monitoring programs, please contact:

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, Virginia 23218

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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