Home » Water Reporter Guide

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 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 or #eelgrass
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.

Thank you to the Water Reporter team!

Water Reporter App

The Water Reporter app is operated by Chesapeake Commons, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide powerful software to those working to improve water quality and the environment. They are continually working to roll out additional features that bolster your work as Water Reporter Volunteers with us. We appreciate their work and support!

Find what you are looking for

There is a lot on this page! Use the links below to jump to one of the most popular sections of this guide:

What have Water Reporters been posting?

Click on the map of Water Reporter posts to see 100 of the most recent Water Reporter posts in the Casco Bay Watershed.

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.

You can get started with Water Reporter here.

If you have any problems throughout this process, please do not hesitate to contact us. Call or text Sarah Lyman at (207) 370-7553 or email volunteer [at] cascobay [dot] org.

How to post to Water Reporter

Open the Water Reporter app and click the pencil icon

Make sure you have downloaded the app and have made a profile before you begin. See how here.

To start, open the Water Reporter App on your phone.

From any screen, tap the blue circle icon with the “pencil” symbol at the bottom of the screen. It will bring you to the “Start Post” page.

Note: If you see the upgrade option, as shown here, just ignore it. We have the professional account features. You don’t need them to share your observations. 

Overview

There are five steps to creating a post on Water Reporter. This guide will walk through them step by step.

1. Find your location

Every post must have a location.

Your best option here is to grant access to the Water Reporter app to your location services. When this action is turned on, Water Reporter will find your location automatically.

If you are posting away from the original location, you can type in a location.  The location pin will drop to that address. Then you can move the pin manually to adjust.

2. Describe your photo and observations. Use hashtags to organize the post.

Describe what you see and add any hashtags that are relevant to your observation. Hashtags help us by grouping and categorizing posts. Once you’ve completed your comment, tap on the blue save button in the upper right-hand corner. 

Include our suggested hashtags, as they apply to your post.
Think WATERS!

  • 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)

You may use multiple hashtags.

3. Add an Image

Take a picture through the app or select an existing photo on your phone.

Click on the camera icon, then select “Take a picture” and take a new photo.

Alternatively, you can choose “Select a saved photo” and choose a photo from your Photo Library, if you already took the image through your device’s camera app. This can be a better option for areas with poor data coverage. It ensures you don’t lose the image.

4. Share with us to make sure we are notified of your post and it displays on our map.

Tap the small green circle next to “Friends of Casco Bay”.

You will know you clicked the circle because it will fill in.

Troubleshooting: Sometimes 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. You can see how to do that in the Troubleshooting section below.

5. Review and submit your post

Review your post to ensure it is complete and accurate.

Click the checkmark in the upper right-hand corner to complete and save your post.

You will be taken to your profile page, and if you have good data service, you will immediately see the post. If you do not see it, tap the globe icon, and see if it is there. Be patient, especially when you do not have good cell phone data coverage. 

Still not seeing it? Contact us at volunteer [at] cascobay [dot] org.

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

Nuisance algal bloom tracking

Help us track Nuisance Algal Blooms around the Bay

An excessive amount of nitrogen can trigger the excessive growth of nuisance algae, reduce water clarity, and lower oxygen levels. Tracking of algae from absence to concerning amounts is helpful because we can’t predict where and when a small patch of algae may become a nuisance algal bloom.

Each volunteer will adopt a specific Bay location to observe regularly, weekly if possible.

Here are photos of different algal blooms around the Bay.

Follow these steps to take part:

  1. Choose a specific location to observe weekly, May through mid-November. You can choose one from our suggested sites on the map below or select your own.
  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 between an hour before and after low tide. Low tides can be found here: https://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Southern%20Coast or on a tide app.
  3. Make sure to use the location pin to mark your location and share your post with the Friends of Casco Bay group.
  4. Take your picture! Try to use a landmark to stand next to in order to make your picture as replicable as possible from week to week.
  5. Add a comment including:
    • the presence and absence of algal growth
    • the name of your site (while not required it helps others scrolling through the app)
    • share if the growth has increased or decreased since your last visit
    • the area of the intertidal zone (low, mid, or high) that the algae is growing in
    • include the date and time if you are not posting in real-time
    • make sure to add #algae. It can be placed in your text or at the end of your comment.
    • Examples:
      • #algae absent at SMCC beach
      • SMCC beach still has algae present in the middle intertidal zone. The growth has decreased since last week. This image was taken at 9:02 AM on June 2, 2020. #algae
  6. Get close! In addition to your ‘big picture’ photo, try to get some close-up photos to help us get a better sense of the type of growth. Ensure you stay safe.
  7. Go back every week – it does not have to be on the same day – to help the Friends of Casco Bay learn more about algal blooms and the health of our Bay!

This map shows locations that we are concerned about potential nuisance algal blooms. If you see a nuisance algal bloom in Casco Bay at a location not on this map, please let Sarah Lyman know at volunteer [at] cascobay [dot] org

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/.

Capturing sea level rise

Help us track how sea levels are rising around the Bay

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/

Troubleshooting

One part of the app isn’t working, such as the location or sharing with the group:

  • That’s okay! Skip the step that isn’t working and continue with the rest of the steps.
  • Post your image
  • Later follow the step below to edit your post and correct the things that were not working.

If you need to edit your post, on your phone:

  1. Once you’ve opened Water Reporter, tap on the rightmost icon, the house, on the bottom bar to navigate to your profile.
  2. Tap the icon in the upper left, three stacked lines.
  3. Click View profile.
  4. Scroll past your bio to find the post you need to edit.
  5. Click on the three horizontal dots at the bottom right of your post.
  6. Click “Edit post” and make any changes.
  7. Click the checkmark in the upper right once you are done editing.

Unable to post your photo while outside?

iPhone users: start with turning off live photos. See how on this page. Then you can try again. For others, or if that still does not work:

  • 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.

How to edit your profile:

  1. Once you’ve opened Water Reporter, tap on the rightmost icon, the house, on the bottom bar to navigate to your profile.
  2. Tap the icon in the upper left, three stacked lines.
  3. Click “Edit profile”.
  4. Make your edits.
  5. Click the checkmark in the upper right once you are done editing.

Become a Water Reporter volunteer:

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.
  • Volunteer Water Reporters are taking photos during astronomical high tides and using the #sealevelrise hashtag. Such high tides can help us spot areas that are vulnerable to rising seas. We are using these observations as we work with local, regional, and state officials to adapt and address climate change.
  • 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.

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

See the screenshots of these steps below.

2.1 Enter your first name, last name, email address, and a password and click “Sign Up for Water Reporter”.

2.2 Join the Friends of Casco Bay group by typing “Friends of Casco Bay” in the search bar. Then tap the green circle. The circle will fill, indicating that you have joined our group.

Click the checkmark in the upper right after you have selected our group.

NOTE: You can leave groups at any time from your profile page and the group’s feed. You can join more groups by searching for their feed and selecting ‘follow’.

2.3 On the next screen you can choose specific people to follow. When you follow people, their posts will appear in your global feed, a stream of posts that is relevant to you. Since you’ll see posts from our group, you can also skip this step by tapping the instruction to do so. Tap the checkmark in the upper right to save your settings.

2.4 Set up your profile and notifications: Tap the menu icon, a stack of three lines, in the upper left-hand corner. Select Edit Profile.

Complete your Profile
Add a simple bio. Consider identifying yourself as a Friends of Casco Bay volunteer and sharing how you enjoy Casco Bay. Then, change your profile photo. We encourage you to personalize your account so that we all can fully embrace the community aspect of Water Reporter.

Confirm Notifications
Water Reporter will send you notifications whenever someone likes or comment on your posts.

Tap the checkmark in the upper right to save your settings.

Congrats, on setting up your account. There is just one more step before making a test post.

Step 3: 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.
    Tap Security & Location and then Location. (If you don’t see “Security & Location,” tap Location.)
    Turn Location on.

You are ready to create your first post. See how here. 

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.

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

Good Green vs. Bad Green

April 16, 2020

If you have ever tried to pick the right shade of green to paint your bedroom, you know there are soothing greens and greens you would never want to wake up to. The same holds true in the ocean. Algae is one of those “greens” that can be a sign… Read more

Warm winter = early algal blooms

April 1, 2020

On March 3rd, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca strolled the South Portland shoreline near our office. She was shocked to see green algae growing at the base of the Spring Point seawall. In the past, we have not begun to see widespread nuisance algal blooms until late May or early June.… Read more

A special Season’s Greetings to you

December 27, 2019

​ Amid the delights and demands of the Holidays, we pause here to thank you and all our volunteers, donors, and supporters. You play a crucial role in our ability to monitor the environmental health of Casco Bay, engage community members to be good stewards, and protect our coastal waters… Read more

Many eyes keep watch on Casco Bay

October 9, 2019

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. Increasingly,… Read more

And how is your summer going?

July 23, 2019

Summer is going swimmingly here at Friends of Casco Bay, and we have a lot of good news to share: Our priority legislative bill to create a state-level Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Council was incorporated nearly word-for-word into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change Council bill. An Act to Promote… Read more

Our growing observing network on Casco Bay

July 11, 2019

Yesterday was the first anniversary of our launching Friends of Casco Bay’s Water Reporter effort. To date, 162 volunteers have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start! A standing-room only crowd of 37 Friends of the Bay gathered in South Portland on June 24th for an informal training on… Read more