Estuarine Water Quality

 Water Quality 101

Waters inside estuaries—bays or other bodies of water where rivers flow into the ocean—are called estuarine waters. Because they form where the land meets the sea, human activities on land can have profound impacts on their health. Suspended sediments can cloud the water, and nutrient pollution can create toxic phytoplankton blooms like the one pictured above, that block light and drain oxygen.

Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. Dr. Chuck Gallegos and the Phytoplankton Lab at SERC have been tracking water quality on one of its tributaries, the Rhode River, since the 1970s. Read more about their work here.

Why is water clear in a bathtub, but blue in a lake? What makes the waters of Chesapeake Bay and other estuaries so murky? And what is a littoral zone? Find the answers to these and other questions in the Hydrological Optics Primer, an intro to water quality and pollution on the land-sea boundary.