Chesapeake Water Watch

The Chesapeake Bay, our nation's largest estuary and home to Maryland’s famous blue crabs, faces threats from runoff, pesticides, population growth, overharvesting, and climate change. Monitoring the quality of the bay’s water helps guide actions to protect and preserve this ecosystem. The Chesapeake Water Watch project asks you to help monitor the bay using a free smartphone app or by collecting water samples. Project researchers will use your measurements to help "train" NASA satellites to fill in the complete water quality picture of this large and complex estuary.

Go to Project Website


18 and up


Earth Science


Outside, Chesapeake Bay (Maryland, Virginia or Delaware)



What you'll do

  • Use a free smartphone app to collect and report water clarity data.
  • Collect water samples for in-lab testing.
  • Explore data taken by volunteers plus the relevant satellite data in real time.


  • Time: 5-10 minutes
  • Equipment:
    • Smartphone
    • Access to a dock or a boat that can take you 100 feet from the shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Knowledge: None. Training provided.

Get started!

  1. Go to the project website.
  2. Visit the Get Involved page to sign up for a virtual or in-person training session.
  3. Pick the best time and day to make your observations. The best times are when the sun is high in the sky and one of the key NASA satellites is flying overhead.
  4. Get started making and reporting water quality observations!

Learn More

To receive project announcements, results, and training opportunities, sign up the project’s mailing list.

Chesapeake Water Watch logo. This rectangular block displays the project name in black capital letters, with a few subtle adornments. The "A" in water is highlighted in a blue teardrop of water, underneath which we see blue waves. The "A" in watch is a satellite. At the bottom we see the logos of the City College of New York, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the NASA Partner logo.
A woman wearing a sun hat, short sleeve shirt, and shorts kneels on a dock in the bay. The cell phone in her hands is aimed at a grey piece of paper on her clipboard, which is the reference image that calibrates water color. The far shore is covered in trees.
A project volunteer uses the water color app.
Image Credit: 2022 summer intern, Diana Menendez Cebreros
Two women in short sleeved blue shirts stand looking at the water, their backs to the photographer. In front of them is a water, its surface lightly ruffled by wind, and the green trees of the far shore.
Project volunteer Sharon Hensley and project coordinator Shelby Brown check their study location on the Rhode River to ensure that there's no debris, foam, or other material on the surface of the water that would influence the HydroColor app readings.
Image Credit: 2022 summer intern, Diana Menendez Cebreros
Portrait photo of man in a cap wearing glasses in and outdoor setting.

Patrick Neale

Research Scientist

Photo of a young woman with sunglasses resting on top of her head as she stands outside with her hand on a tree trunk.

Alison Cawood

Director of Public Engagement

Portrait photo of a young woman outside standing next to a telescope.

Maria Tzortziou

Environmental Scientist

Portrait photo of a young woman outside against a bright blue sky; she is wearing a cap with her sunglasses sitting on top of it.

Minsun Lee