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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 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

Start with taking a photo with the camera application on your smartphone. 

First open the camera app on your smartphone to get quickly capture what you are seeing. 

iPhone camera app
Android camera app


Next, 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.


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.

  • 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).

How to use a computer to post to Water Reporter, instead of the phone app

  1. Open the Water Reporter Website: https://www.waterreporter.org/
  2. Choose “Sign In” in the upper righthand corner.
  3. Log in with your Water Reporter account.
  4. Click the blue “Share a Post” button located in the upper right corner of the page.
  5. Type a description of your post into the text box that says, “Go ahead, say a few words.” Include the date and time your photo was taken. Describe what you see. Then add any hashtags that are relevant to your observation. Hashtags help us by grouping and categorizing posts. Hashtags are the “#” followed by a word or phrase without spaces.
    Think WATERS to see our most used hastags! 

W  #wildlife (Share the wildlife you see)

A   #algae (Report algae blooms)

T   #trash (Report marine trash)

E   #erosion (Identify coastal erosion sites) #eelgrass (Report sightings of eelgrass)

R   #reportpollution (Report pollution: sheen, foam, discolored discharges)

S   #sealevelrise (Revisit the same location to capture high tide impacts)

 You may use multiple hashtags.

  • Enter your photo’s original location under the heading “Where does this post belong?”  Use the “Type in an address…” box to specify your site, or insert your location’s coordinates in the longitude and latitude boxes. Please note: right now the map function is not working on this part of Water Reporter, so you will not see the location.
  • Upload an image. Click “Browse…” to view photos that you have saved on your computer.  Choose the image you want to share.
  • Share with us to make sure we are notified of your post and it displays on our map.
    Under the heading “Share this post with your groups,” click the small square located on the upper right of the Friends of Casco Bay logo. You will know you clicked it because a small check mark will appear in the square.
  • Review and submit your post
    Review your post to ensure it is complete and accurate.
    Once you have completed these steps, click the green “Share” button at the bottom of the page.


Congratulations! You have shared your observations with us on Water Reporter! If you’d like to confirm it worked, you can click on your profile image, likely your face or a water drop in the right righthand corner, and confirm you see your post.

Videos on Water Reporter

These videos may help you help us through Water Reporter.

If there are other videos that would you would find helpful. please let us know.

Location Ideas

We are interested in learning of any changes seen anywhere around the Bay. This map serves as a way a way to suggest some location ideas. Please don’t limit your observations to these locations.

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.

Please share any algal blooms you see on Water Reporter. For those that want to, you can adopt a specific Bay location to observe regularly, weekly if possible. See the map below for location ideas.

Here are photos of different algal blooms around the Bay.


Follow these steps to take part:

  1. Choose a 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 Southern Maine Community College beach
      • Southern Maine Community College 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!

Location ideas

This map shows some of the locations that we are concerned about potential nuisance algal blooms. Once you click on a location, a sidebar will popup. If a volunteer has selected to track that location regularly, they will be listed. If you would like to track a location regularly please let Sarah know volunteer [at] cascobay [dot] org. You can also contact Sarah if you know of a location that should be tracked that is not on this map.

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


These two images of Falmouth Town Landing show how repeatable sea level rise images can be. The image on the left was taken by Trish Peterson on February 11, 2020 and the image on the right was taken by Anne Wood on September 22, 2020.

Not only is it happening, sea level rise is accelerating.

Who: You and other Water Reporters around Casco Bay

What:​ We look to YOU to help us capture images of the unusually high tides that will occur by using the Water Reporter app on your smartphone. These tides are due to ​​changing ​​seasonal​ ​​weather patterns​ and the gravitational effects of the Earth, Sun, and Moon.

​​​Additional​ variables ​that affect the tides are winds, storm surge, polar melt, and barometric pressure, which can push water farther up the shoreline​. With all of these aspects influencing the tides, it is important that we capture images of rising sea levels in Water Reporter​.

When: 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/. We also send reminders to Water Reporters via email.

Once you identify the days we will have higher than normal tides, high tides can be found here: https://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Southern%20Coast.

The ideal time to take these photos is during the hour around high tide, from half an hour before to half an hour after high tide. Plan your arrival time so that you have enough time to get to your location and take a photo, or series of photos.

As always, adjust for weather and safety, and follow all State of Maine and Centers for Disease Control guidance regarding the pandemic. Please wear a mask as needed and stay more than 6 feet away from anyone with whom you don’t share a household.

Where: Beaches, coastal parks, and public access sites along Casco Bay are perfect locations. For example: Back Cove or East End Beach in Portland, Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Willard Beach, Bug Light and Spring Point Light Parks in South Portland, Mackworth Island in Falmouth, Wolfe Neck State Park in Freeport, Graveyard Point Town Landing in Harpswell, any of the islands in Casco Bay, and many many more places.

HowUse the Water Reporter app. 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. Remember to type #sealevelrise into your post to help us categorize it.

Why: Your photos can help document current coastal flooding, such as eroding coastlines and submerged streets. As sea levels continue to rise, your images will help us all visualize what the “new normal” high tides may look like.

Ensure your safety! No photo, however dramatic, is worth getting injured or swept away! ​It is especially important to adhere to state and local social-distancing requirements. ​

You can reach Sarah Lyman with any questions. Get my attention quickly by calling or texting (207) 370-7553 or email her at volunteer [at] cascobay [dot] org.

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 to five foot sea level rise along the coast over the next 100 years. On top of the long-term rise, abrupt sea level change on the order of months, rather than years, can also occur.

Sea level rise and storm surges threaten much of the infrastructure — the homes, roads, and water treatment plants — we have built near the ocean. 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.

Tracking eelgrass

Extreme low tides are a great time to go looking for eelgrass. That means when we send a reminder to do our #sealevelrise posts during astronomically high tides, during that same stretch of days, you can look for eelgrass during low tides. Share images of these and track them over the season and years.


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 delete 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 “Delete post”.

You can follow these steps to edit your post and add forgotten hashtags:

  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”.
  7. Make the changes
  8. Click the checkmark in the upper right-hand corner

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:

Water Reporter Post of the Month: Sally Carlisle

April 22, 2021

Growing-up sailing the waters of Penobscot Bay with her dad, Water Reporter Sally Carlisle fell in love with the coast of Maine at a young age. Last fall, when Sally joined our community of Water Reporters, she began to notice something new about her life-long home. “Through all the years… Read more

January 2021 Water Reporter Post of the Month

March 2, 2021

Our intrepid Water Reporters help us keep an eye on Casco Bay year round. Many return again and again to a favorite spot along the Bay, reporting on changes they see. This month, we applaud Sara Biron, Friends of Casco Bay’s Data, Development, and Design Associate, for capturing a series… Read more

December 2020 Water Reporter Post of the Month

January 11, 2021

Our Volunteer Water Reporters often go beyond the call of duty. Just look at our Water Reporter Post of the Month taken by Anne Wood during the mid December storm. Volunteers, like Anne, head out in all sorts of weather conditions to take photos of high tides. While braving inclement… Read more

Our top 10 moments of 2020

January 4, 2021

As this very odd year comes to a close, let’s celebrate the large and small ways our community helped us protect the health of Casco Bay in 2020. Here are our top ten for the year: 1.) On December 2, the Maine Climate Council released its four-year Climate Action Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait.” We… Read more

October and November 2020 Water Reporter Posts of the Month

December 15, 2020

What has 240 pairs of eyes and cares about the health of Casco Bay? Our network of volunteer Water Reporters! And even with colder weather descending on our region, our Water Reporters continue to stay connected to the Bay. Steve Fielding and Karla Talanian are among the dozens of volunteers… Read more

What Casco Bay is telling us

November 3, 2020

We had a lively and informative What Casco Bay is telling us: a Casco Bay Matters Event as more than 100 Friends joined us for the conversation. Here is a video of the event, for those of you who were not able to attend live or would like to relisten.… Read more