Watching the Waters

Stream and Harbor Sampling

The Department of Public Works is responsible for Stream Impact Sampling – monitoring the quality of the streams and Harbor in the City of Baltimore. The Stream Impact Sampling program is a comprehensive effort designed to document chemical analyses of city streams over long spans of time. Each of the 33 sampling locations is visited once a month, and laboratory analysis is performed on the samples for the following parameters:

Metals: Chromium, Dissolved*; Chromium, Total*; Copper, Dissolved**; Copper, Total; Lead, Dissolved**; Lead, Total; Zinc, Dissolved**; Zinc, Total.

Nutrients & Sediment: Nitrate+Nitrite Nitrogen; Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen; Total Phosphorus; Total Suspended Solids.

Biologic (Bacteria): E. coli; Enterococcus

Other Water Quality Indicators: Chemical Oxygen Demand; Chloride; Fluoride; Hardness; Total Sodium***

* Harbor samples only; **Three samples per year at most stations; ***Limited stations only

Historic data for the Stream Impact Sampling Program can be found on the Surface Water Quality Data Web Page. The purpose of this program is to evaluate the quality of our surface waters for any long-term trends and determine any capital investment programs or operational programs to implement. The results may be affected by a variety of factors: precipitation, land-use changes, and human behavior. For a map of all sampling locations in Baltimore City click HERE.

Ammonia Screening
Ammonia screening is a water quality monitoring program designed to rapidly identify potential pollutants with the intent to initiate pollution source tracking. The results of the ammonia screening program have identified sanitary discharges, drinking water system leaks, and chemical spills. Each of the 47 sampling locations is visited on a weekly basis and all chemical analyses are performed in the field. To view historic sampling data please visit the Stream Impact Sampling and Ammonia Page

Wet Weather Stormwater sampling occurs approximately 8 to 12 times per year at four of the Stream Impact Sampling locations. The results of this sampling program are available in the Annual MS4 Compliance Report.

Biological Monitoring
Biological monitoring consists of the collection and analysis of benthic macroinvertebrates and other field parameters to determine stream conditions in the City’s three major watersheds: the Gwynns Falls, the Jones Falls, and the Back River. Sampling for each watershed occurs every spring on a rotating basis. The City’s program is based on Maryland Biological Stream Survey protocols developed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The results of this sampling program are available in the Annual MS4 Compliance Report.

See a Problem?

If you observe a problem in a stream or the harbor (such as a sanitary leak, a funny smell, or discolored water) contact 311 and report it as a “Waterway pollution investigation”!  You can call, visit the 311 Web Page, or use the free 311 App.