As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in early Spring, Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) had to completely rethink how we could host the 2020 Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program and provide a safe space for our volunteers. Our Potomac Riverkeeper, Dean Naujoks, with assistance from a few volunteers, successfully digitized the entire volunteer training program and brought back volunteers in small increments so that we could continue our 2nd year of the Water Quality Monitoring Program. This year’s program has been a major success, with numerous volunteers participating, and community members well aware of safe river conditions, we’re thrilled we were able to provide the same services, given the tough situation.
PRKN’s Water Quality Monitoring Program is increasingly important because more than one billion gallons of raw sewage are discharged every year into the Potomac from combined sewer overflows, which occur whenever it rains hard enough to exceed the capacity of the pipes. Increasing development has compounded these issues by creating more impervious surfaces, resulting in pollution runoff into waterways. Our water quality program tests the water every week during summer for E. coli and other pollution that could make you sick. We post the results every Thursday evening or Friday morning on SwimGuide, a user-friendly smartphone app that tells you at a glance whether the water is safe for recreation.
While getting on the water has always been a staple of summer recreation, the summer of 2020 gave us more reason than ever to get out of our homes and enjoy some socially distanced on the water activities. With more people on the water than normal, it was critically important that our water quality monitoring program continued to report safe water conditions, so individuals and families know when the water is safe to recreate on.