Protecting Our Water:
Lakewatch Volunteer Water Quality Program

Since 2004, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has participated in an ongoing statewide effort to establish an estuary pollution monitoring program, utilizing a network of citizens.

Funded by the Stranahan Foundation, Conservancy Biologist Kathy Worley and a team of four trained Conservancy volunteers - Gersha Bayer, Susan Snyder, Sue Smith and Pat Tarnow – have participated in the Florida Lakewatch project.


Volunteers assist with water quality sampling at the headwaters of the Gordon River.

Florida Lakewatch is one of the largest citizen based volunteer monitoring programs in the country.

Lakewatch uses the data to provide citizens, agencies and researchers with scientifically sound water management information and educational outreach. Reports are issued annually by the University of Florida. They cover the statewide network of sampling effort.

Florida Lakewatch is one of the largest citizen based volunteer monitoring programs in the country. Lakewatch uses the data to provide citizens, agencies and researchers with scientifically sound water management information and educational outreach. Reports are issued annually by the University of Florida. They cover the statewide network of sampling effort.

Site Locations

Originally, nine sites were chosen in the Naples Bay and Gordon River system in areas where water quality was historically monitored by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Collier County or the City of Naples, to extend the timeline from water quality data collected in the 1990s to present day.

Today, two sites are still being monitored near the headwaters of the Gordon River by volunteers. (The other seven sites were picked up by the City of Naples and there was no need to duplicate efforts.)

How It Works

Conservancy volunteers perform bi-monthly water sampling at the sites within the Naples Bay Watershed. Once the water samples are collected by the volunteers they are sent to the University of Florida in Gainesville for analysis of basic nutrients including total phosphorus, total nitrogen and chlorophyll as part of the Florida Lakewatch program.

Florida Lakewatch is one of the largest citizen based volunteer monitoring programs in the country. Lakewatch uses the data to provide citizens, agencies and researchers with scientifically sound water management information and educational outreach.

Lakewatch enters all data into STORET, an EPA water quality database that is used nationwide to evaluate waterways and list their status (impaired or otherwise). The STORET database is accessible by any individual who wishes to view the data. Additionally, annual reports are sent to each participant in the project, which provide the current “status” of the waterbody they are investigating. In our case, it is Naples Bay.

The data collected by the volunteers enables Conservancy of Southwest Florida scientists to determine if water quality has improved, declined or remained stable overtime.

The University of Florida Lakewatch program utilizes water quality data from a variety of organizations, it provides a more systematic and efficient network of collaborative water quality monitoring than individual studies alone.

Read more here.