Student Challenge Promotes Water Quality Understanding

2-5-2016 10-45-43 AMNow through March 1, high school students have the opportunity to study and map nutrients in the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay watershed as part of the Visualize Your Water Challenge. The Grand Prize winner gets $2,500 (wow!) and a chance to head to San Diego in June for the Esri Education GIS Conference. Through this challenge, we hope that students learn more about water quality issues in our area and what they can do to combat them. For nearly 40 years, we have strived to show these water quality problems to more than a million students across the region through meaningful, hands-on education experiences. Now, through this challenge, students can take what they have learned out on the water with us one step further through interactive digital mapping technology. Below, high school teacher Mr. Kelly W. Garton talks about the value of this challenge. 

For the past 20 years, I have taken my Advanced Placement Environmental Science students to the Potomac River with Chesapeake Bay Foundation. There is simply no better way for me to provide a perspective on environmental issues affecting the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. By using the Water Quality Index, a 100-point scale that summarizes results from a total of nine different measurement (Dissolved Oxygen, Fecal Coliform, pH, BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand), Temperature difference, Total Phosphate, Nitrates, Turbidity, and Total Dissolved Solids), we have been able to evaluate and discuss environmental issues concerning the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

Over that 20-year timespan, I have seen signs of improvement in the water quality. For example, we now get lower readings of both Phosphate and Nitrate in the river and we see increased biodiversity. Unlike years ago, it is now common for us to see a breeding pair of bald eagles near our Nation's Capital. 

This contest would be a great visual to show that, although there is still a lot of work to be done in restoring the health of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, there is data to support the claim that progress is being made. 

--Mr. Kelly W. Garton, 
Walt Whitman High School,
Bethesda, MD

Ready to start the challenge?! Click here.

GIS_Example
An example of what students can create through ArcGIS software.

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