The 7 techniques to monitor, measure, and evaluate water quality

Dive into our comprehensive guide on water quality assessment, covering seven key techniques, from CDOM/FDOM monitoring to assessing turbidity and TSS.
measure water quality

To evaluate water quality is to delve into the lifeblood of our planet. This invaluable resource propels ecosystems, supports human health, and underpins various economic activities. Yet, this vital asset is not impervious to strain.

This is where the critical role of water quality monitoring comes into focus. Regular assessments allow scientists to identify the threats and devise appropriate responses. The data gathered informs the direction of restoration projects and assists in upholding essential environmental standards.

7 ways to evaluate evaluate water quality

This article explores seven compelling methods to evaluate water quality. Each technique offers unique insights into the health of our waters, empowering us to safeguard our planet’s most precious resource better.

1. CDOM/FDOM Monitoring

Colored or Chromophoric Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM) is a naturally occurring substance in water bodies. This organic matter absorbs ultraviolet light and breaks down to release tannin, an organic pollutant. As a result, the water can appear cloudy and acidic, with lowered oxygen levels.

A portion of CDOM that fluoresces is known as Fluorescent Dissolved Organic Matter (FDOM). It adds to the murkiness of the water. To monitor the levels of CDOM/FDOM, we use optical sensors equipped with fluorometers and sapphire lenses. These sensors determine light availability in the water, reflecting the concentration of dissolved organic matter.

2. Chlorophyll Fluorescence Analysis

Surface water rich in minerals, particularly phosphorus, and nitrogen, encourages excessive algal growth. This can lead to a reduction in oxygen levels and an increase in potentially toxic nitrogen and phosphorus content, posing a threat to aquatic life.

Chlorophyll fluorescence is an effective way to monitor this. When illuminated, we can use algae toximeters to measure the proportion of wet-chemical and active chlorophyll in the water. This helps keep a check on algal bloom and water quality.

3. Conductivity, Salinity, and TDS monitoring

The conductivity of a water body is a direct early indicator of its quality, affecting salinity and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), which, in turn, influence oxygen concentration.

Factors like temperature, excessive rainfall, increased organic matter content, and human-induced pollution can modify water conductivity, indicating significant changes in water quality. For example, an oil spill or a surge in organic substances can decrease ocean conductivity, flagging potential pollution.

To monitor these, we use conductivity, salinity, and TDS meters. While each meter measures a different parameter, their combined results can provide a comprehensive picture of potential pollution.

4. Recording the water temperature

Temperature profoundly influences water quality. It affects photosynthesis, metabolism, gas concentration, conductivity, salinity, pH, and water density.

A sudden temperature change, for instance, can make ammonia more toxic to aquatic life. Various tools like thermometers, thermistors, thermocouples, and digital temperature sensors are used to measure temperature at different depths, times, and locations.

5. Measuring the Dissolved Oxygen Levels

Dissolved oxygen (DO) signifies how much oxygen is available for flora and fauna. The decomposition of organic material can deplete oxygen levels.

If the DO dips below 6 mg/L, it can harm the ecosystem. Various techniques can measure DO concentration, including electrochemical or optical sensors, colorimetric methods, the Winkler titration method, and optical DO sensors.

Read also: Blue Economy: what is it and what are its main components and principles

6. PH and KH Testing

An increase in pH can disrupt water ecosystems. The safe pH range for ponds or lakes is 6.0 to 8.0. However, factors like algal overgrowth and pollution can increase pH and toxic ammonia levels.

Water test kits or electronic pH sensors are used for pH testing. Monitoring carbonate hardness (KH) is also vital, as it influences pH levels.

7. Assessing the Turbidity, TSS, and clarity

Suspended solids, decaying vegetation, and other substances can cloud water, affecting sunlight penetration and aquatic life. Sudden turbidity or total suspended solids (TSS) spikes may indicate soil erosion or pollution. Tools like nephelometers and Secchi disks measure turbidity, TSS, and clarity, which are vital for a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

Researchers can strategize effective conservation measures by observing these crucial water quality indicators. These methods help us evaluate key water quality parameters, safeguarding our freshwater and brackish water bodies.

We must continually evaluate water quality to save the aquatic ecosystem

Our planet’s aquatic health hinges on the quality of our water bodies. Through the seven methods to evaluate water quality we’ve discussed – we can effectively measure, monitor, and evaluate water quality.

As we strive towards sustainable conservation, these methods empower us to protect our precious water bodies and encourage biodiversity. Let’s continue exploring these techniques, refining our approach, and deepening our commitment to a healthier, cleaner, more vibrant aquatic ecosystem.

Read also: World Water Day 2023, UN warns: unsustainable use, risk of global water crisis

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