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Water Reporter Guide

Please note: If you see an emergency along the Bay like a stranded or injured animal or person, please contact the appropriate authority. You can find a list of them here.

Want to get outside, take photos that may help protect the health of Casco Bay, and connect with other community members? We invite you to join our new volunteer Observing Network, Water Reporter, an exciting way to share what you see around the Bay.

Your observations combined with others’ will provide a better understanding of conditions in Casco Bay. You can help protect our waters by looking out for nuisance algal blooms and other potential problems, while appreciating the beauty of the Bay and its diverse plant and animal life.

For this project we are asking you to take photos of the Bay to document algal bloom events, water pollution and trash, shoreline erosion, and marine wildlife sightings. Through the Water Reporter app, your photos will be shared with Friends of Casco Bay, as well as with other observers. You will be able to see and comment on others’ posts and get an idea of what is going on around the Bay.

Having trouble remembering the types of posts we are looking for and the hashtags to use? Think WATERS!

W  #wildlife
A   #algae
T   #trash
E   #erosion
R   #reportpollution
S   #sealevelrise

Each submission is displayed on a map and posted to individual, organization, and watershed feeds. To keep you in the loop, you will receive email notifications every time someone comments or takes action on your report.

Map of Water Reporter Observations

In order to be a Water Reporter volunteer:

  • You will need a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or a tablet (iPad or Android tablet).

  • Create an account on the Water Reporter app and join the Friends of Casco Bay group.

  • Be willing to take photos of the Bay and share them on the app along with their location.

    What you need to know:

  • Each photo you submit will provide a better understanding of conditions in the Bay.
  • Friends of Casco Bay is especially interested in tracking algal blooms as they occur, so if you come across one, be sure to share a photo along with the hashtag #algae.
  • For other reports please use hashtags like #trash #erosion #pollutionreport or #wildlife in the photo caption to improve search and categorization of your report for the community and Friends of Casco Bay.

This guide walks you through creating an account on the Water Reporter app and posting a photo. If you’d like a one page, printable overview of this guide, you can download this document

If you have any problems throughout this process, please do not hesitate to contact us. During office hours, Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., call us at (207) 799-8574. Outside office hours, call or text Sarah Lyman at (207) 370-7553.

Become a Water Reporter volunteer:

Step 1: Download the Water Reporter app on your smartphone

There are two ways to download the Water Reporter app, either search your phone’s app store or use the links provided here.

Once the app is installed, open it.

Step 2: Sign up to create your account

2.1 Enter your email address and a password and click “Sign Up”.

2.2 Enter your name and other information you want to share (this can be edited later) then click “Next”.

2.3 Join the Friends of Casco Bay group by clicking the group icon (shown to the right) and then typing “Friends of Casco Bay” in the search bar and clicking the green “Join” button to the right. Then click “Done”.

2.4 A greeting message will pop up. Click “Get started” which will take you to your feed showing the latest activity from other users. For more information about interacting with your activity feed visit the Water Reporter help site: https://help.waterreporter.org/getting-started-for-basic-users/activity-feed-explore-the-community

Tip Before you make a post, make sure your Location Services are turned on outside of the Water Reporter app.

  • iPhone: Go into Settings, click on “Privacy” and then “Location Services” make sure the toggle is green.
  • Android: Open your device’s Settings app Settings app.
    Tap Security & Location and then Location. (If you don’t see “Security & Location,” tap Location.)
    Turn Location on.

Step 3: Post your first photo

3.1 Click on the center icon with the “+” symbol at the bottom of the screen which will bring you to the “Create Post” page.

3.2 Click on the camera icon and either choose a photo in your Photo Library or take a new photo.

3.3 Confirm your location by clicking on the location pin, allow Water Reporter to access your location while using the app, and make sure the red dot is in the correct spot on the map (where the photo was taken) and click “Set”.

3.4 Share your post with Friends of Casco Bay.

  • iPhone: Click on the icon with the two figures and then also click on the Friends of Casco Bay logo. You will know you clicked the logo because a small green circle will appear next to it.
  • Android: Under “Share with your groups” click on the toggle next to Friends of Casco Bay, when the toggle is green it means it will be shared.

Troubleshooting: Sometime the tagging a group feature does not work. If this happens to you, skip this step and continue to post your photo. Once it is posted, you can edit your post and share it with the Friends of Casco Bay group.

3.5 Describe more about your photo in the comment field, including our suggested hashtags (you may use multiple hashtags):

  • W  #wildlife (Share the wildlife you see)
  • A   #algae (Report algae blooms)
  • T   #trash (Report marine trash)
  • E   #erosion (Identify coastal erosion sites)
  • R   #reportpollution (Report pollution: sheen, foam, discolored discharges)
  • S   #sealevelrise (Revisit the same location to capture high tide impacts)

For more information on using hashtags visit: https://help.waterreporter.org/getting-started-for-basic-users/sharing-reports/add-hashtags-to-report-comments

3.6 Click “Save” (iPhone) or the send button (Android) to post your photo.

Note: All times recorded on the map are in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Special Water Reporter Posting Types

Community members have observed the rise in sea level over the years. Coastal communities are experiencing greater storm surges and King Tides (astronomically high tides that occur a few times year). Maine geologists are planning for a three-foot sea level rise along the Maine coast over the next 100 years. The predicted impacts include beach erosion; landslides; loss of wildlife habitats; and drowned infrastructure, causing more sewage overflows, flooded streets, broken pipes, and costly repairs.

Now we need your help to capture these changes. Follow these steps to take a sea level rise photo:

  1. Find a good location: beaches, coastal parks, and public access sites along Casco Bay are perfect locations, for example, Back Cove or East End Beach in Portland, Fort William Park in Cape Elizabeth, Willard Beach, Bug Light, and Spring Point Light Parks in South Portland, Mackworth Island in Falmouth, Wolf Neck State Park in Freeport, Graveyard Point Town Landing in Harpswell, any of the islands in Casco Bay, and many many more places.  Make sure you can stay safe!
  2. Plan your arrival time so that you have enough time to get to your location and take a photo, or series of photos. The ideal time to take these photos is half an hour before or after high tide. High tides can be found here: https://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Southern%20Coast
  3. Stand at least two strides up from the water line. Take the photo looking down the shoreline. Include some sort of structure or landmark in your picture, such as a pier, jetty, breakwater, building, or dock, for perspective. This will help you and others take images from the same location and angle in the future.

The Northeast Outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s seasonal high tide flooding bulletins show when our area may experience higher than normal high tides. Bulletins are updated quarterly and can be found here: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/high-tide-bulletin/

What’s the big deal with green algae?

In the marine environment, nitrogen jumpstarts the growth of algae and phytoplankton, tiny plants that form the base of the ocean food chain, which in turn nurture zooplankton, clams, oysters, crabs, lobsters, fish, and whales. But too much nitrogen may trigger large blooms of nuisance algae or “green slime,” which can reduce water clarity and lower oxygen levels, making life harder for marine organisms. These nuisance algal blooms may be triggered by excess nitrogen from fertilizers, sewage, pet wastes, and emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks. For more information on excess nitrogen and green algae visit https://www.cascobay.org/our- work/science/nuisance-algal- bloom-tracking/.

Here are photos of different algal blooms around the Bay.

Learn more about Water Reporter and the impact of your reports:

It Takes a Village

May 20, 2019

Rick Frantz keeps an eye on Casco Bay as he commutes between his home on Great Diamond Island and Andy’s Old Port Pub, the restaurant that he and his wife Jennifer Fox own on the Portland waterfront. When he sees something out of the ordinary, good or bad, he takes… Read more

King Tides help us see what sea level rise might look like

February 15, 2019

Did you see the Armed with smartphones, volunteers track Casco Bay king tides as harbingers of sea-level rise article in the Portland Press Herald that covered this effort? You can learn more about our Water Reporter effort and join here. A King Tide is an astronomically high tide. A King Tide… Read more

Maine Day of Service – January 5, 2019

December 14, 2018

Sea level is rising and we need your help to capture the changes. Community members have observed the rise in sea level over the years. Coastal communities are experiencing greater storm surges and King Tides (astronomically high tides that occur a few times year). Maine geologists are planning for a… Read more

Water Reporters Spur Actions to Protect the Bay

October 16, 2018

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is our watchdog on the health of the Bay. She is on or along the water as much as possible, even in her spare time! But she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely upon our Volunteers to be our extra eyes on the Bay. Since July, increasingly… Read more

Water Reporters watch out for Casco Bay all year long

October 3, 2018

We launched our Water Reporter Observing Network in July. Since then, our volunteer Water Reporters have been reporting the good, the bad, and the ugly of what they have been seeing out on the Bay. Here are some recent examples: Sandy M shared this post on September 11th near East End Beach: “Just more plastic junk, but c’mon,”   Our Community Engagement… Read more

Water Reporter Volunteers are important to our Baykeeping efforts!

September 17, 2018

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Bay. She is on or along the water almost daily, but she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely on volunteers to report conditions around the Bay. The Water Reporter App really helps those efforts because we instantly receive… Read more



If you made a mistake in your post:

  1. Click on the three horizontal dots at the top of your post to the right of your name.
  2. Click “Edit post” and make any changes.
  3. Click “Save” once you are done editing.

How to edit your profile:

  1. Click on the leftmost icon on the bottom bar to navigate to your profile.
  2. At your profile page click on the gear icon in the top right corner.
  3. Click “Edit Profile” and then make your edits.
  4. Hit “Done” when you are finished editing and then hit “Done” again to exit out of the Settings menu.

Unable to post your photo while outside?:

  • Take the photo on your phone’s camera (outside of the app).
  • Make sure to note the location and time when you take the photo.
  • Back at home, bring Water Reporter up on your phone or sign in on your computer (computer link: https://www.waterreporter.org/community/user/login).
  • Upload your photo on Water Reporter and go through the same posting steps above, making sure that your location pin is where you took the photo and not your current location if you are posting from home, work, etc.
  • In the caption of the photo, before any description or hashtags, write the date and time of when the photo was taken.
  • Share your post with Friends of Casco Bay and save it.

What is the Presumpscot Watershed?

The Presumpscot Watershed is the name of the Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) assigned to the entire Casco Bay area by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). While we know that many communities around Casco Bay are in actuality beyond the Presumpscot River system, we are not able to change the name of this region in the app because of the way USGS has coded the watershed. All posts located in the Casco Bay watershed will be grouped as being in the Presumpscot Watershed.