Water Quality

For the Chesapeake Bay to be a productive ecosystem, the water of the Bay, its rivers and its streams must be healthy. In other words, it should be clear, contain the right amounts of oxygen and algae, and be free of chemical contaminants. Good water quality supports fish and wildlife populations and allows for healthy human interaction with the watershed.

Studying water quality can give students the background knowledge needed to understand how scientists come to conclusions about the health of local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Your students can explore real-time data, like the Chesapeake Bay Buoys, to learn how water quality changes throughout the year in response to human actions and natural events, and look through summaries, like the Bay Report Card, to understand how water quality relates to underwater bay grasses and wildlife as well as how health indicators have changed over the years.

Water quality investigations can also be very hands-on and local. Students can conduct simple water quality tests at nearby waterways - from the river that flows through town, or a small creek at the edge of their school - and start a data collection to share on a community science platform. Water quality tests can lead to questions about the activities that impact our waterways and be used to inform student action.

Learn about water quality

Air Pollution

Pollutants released into the air by cars, gas-powered lawn tools, power plants and other sources fall back to the earth’s surface, where it can enter our waterways.

Learn more about the issues surrounding air pollution.

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Nutrients

Nutrients are chemicals that living things need to grow and survive. But when too many nutrients enter the Chesapeake Bay, they can create conditions that are harmful for wildlife.

Learn more about the issues surrounding nutrients.

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Sediment

Sediment is made up of loose particles of sand, silt and clay. It is a natural part of the Chesapeake Bay, but in excess amounts, it can cloud the water and harm plants, fish and shellfish.

Learn more about the issues surrounding sediment.

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Chemical Contaminants

Most of the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal waters are impaired by toxic contaminants. Pesticides, pharmaceuticals, metals and more are harmful to human and environmental health.

Learn more about the issues surrounding chemical contaminants.

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Related Teaching Resources

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