Water Quality & Testing

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper strives to improve water quality in Western New York in many ways.

From restoring shorelines to limiting plastic pollution there is much to be done. We engage volunteers interested in monitoring local water quality through our Riverwatch Program. Use this page to explore local water quality data and ongoing water quality issues.

Ways to Improve Water Quality

Rain Barrels
Green Infrastructure
Living Shorelines

Water Quality Maps & Tools

Niagara River Watershed Water Quality Data

Riverwatch volunteers collect baseline water quality data each year at sites throughout the Niagara River Watershed. Explore the data collected, as well as locations of Combined Sewer Outfalls and more on the map below. Click ‘Show map details’ for symbol descriptions. Use the + and – symbols in the bottom right corner of the map to zoom in and out. Click on a symbol for more information. Here is a direct link to the map: https://maps.waterreporter.org/1dd111d644cfd529/ 

Bacterial Monitoring

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper works with Swim Guide to deliver free water quality information for waterways in Western New York. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Staff and volunteers collect water samples in Western New York and analyze for E. coli. Sample sites are either popular for water recreation or near combined sewer outfalls. Samples will be processed in house using Coliscan Easygel. Results are typically available after 48 hours. Results are compared to the US EPA Beach Action Value of 235 E. coli / 100 mL for a single sample.

Swim Guide helps you easily find your closest beaches and know at a glance which ones are safe for swimming. Swim Guide delivers free real-time water quality information for over 7,000 beaches, lakes, rivers, and swimming holes around the world.

The Lake Erie Volunteer Science Network is a regional community of practice that unites and empowers community members to collect, share, and engage with water quality data for the conservation and enrichment of our Great Lakes and all who call it home. Explore data sets and compare two different sites from the Lake Erie Basin using the web widget below.

Nurdle Patrol — Plastic Monitoring

Nurdles are small plastic pellets, about the size of a lentil, used in plastics manufacturing. This plastic pollution has been found on the shorelines of several waterways within the Niagara River Watershed. Nurdle Patrol Volunteers help us find and map the location of these nurdles to be included in a Nationwide Nurdle Patrol Project.

PFAS Surface Water Monitoring

In 2022 Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper participated in a nationwide effort to study PFAS surface water contamination along with over 100 Waterkeeper groups coordinated by Waterkeeper Alliance.  

Learn more about PFAS and sampling results

Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB)

A Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) contains organisms that can produce toxins. Most algae are harmless and are components of an aquatic ecosystem. HABs are likely to occur in slow moving water with excess nutrients. HABs are harmful to people and animals.

Spill Response

Accidental releases of hazardous materials have the potential to endanger public health and contaminate groundwater, surface water, and soils.

NYS DEC Spill Hotline:

Water Quality Resources

Riverwatch Data
Invasive Species Guide
Native Plant Guide
Swim Guide
Water Reporter
Water Safety
DEC Info Locator
Buffalo Rain Check
Great Lakes Data Stream

2021 Riverwatch Water Quality Report

The Riverwatch Report is an educational tool providing information about water quality in the Western New York region. Included in this report:
  • Baseline water quality data collected by citizen scientists
  • Bacteria data collected
  • Information regarding ongoing and emerging sources of pollution
  • Solutions to ongoing pollution
  • Ways to get involved with Waterkeeper to help further our mission

Past Water Quality Reports