It’s not everyday that an 18-year-old high school senior gets to experience what I did last Tuesday with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). It was an unforgettable encounter. The sun was low and distant. It was an ideal day to curl up with a good book. Instead I found myself on the shoulder of Highway 10 reading water quality probe results from a data logger to my co-volunteer Jamar.

Water quality refers to the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of rivers, streams and lakes. Water quality measurements are good indicators of the health of the overall environment for people, plants and wildlife.

Kelisa holding a Hydrolab
Kelisa holding a Hydrolab

Jamar and I were able to do real time water quality monitoring, which was a new experience for me. We learned the difference between continuous sampling and grab sampling. As the name implies, grab sampling involves taking samples at random times from one site. Though accurate, this method only provides information for one point in time.

Imagine there is a chemical spill in a stream or river. If a grab sample is taken prior to the spill, a water resources technician has no way of knowing it occurred until the next time a grab sample is taken. Significant damage can be done during this time.

A Hydrolab is an instrument that collects water quality data in real time. Although similar to grab sampling, a continuous sampler like a Hydrolab collects accurate information about water quality all the time. A data logger stores and sends results to a connected database through a cellular network, which can be accessed from a computer. That way a technician can easily tell if a spill has occurred right away because the Hydrolab records it in real time.

CVC is one of two conservation authorities with a real-time water quality network. Technicians measure and analyze water quality information at 11 CVC monitoring stations within the Credit River watershed.

Information gathered includes temperature, pH, water level, specific conductance (ability of water to conduct electricity), turbidity (cloudiness), dissolved oxygen (as a percentage and mg/l) and total dissolved solids.

This efficient water monitoring method allows for better collaboration with our municipal partners. Municipalities use this information to prioritize pollution prevention and ensure public confidence in the quality of drinking water.

Learning about the importance of water quality and monitoring first-hand has greatly impacted how I view the environment. I encourage other students to get involved. There are so many things to experience in real time.

– Article by CVC’s Kelisa Shamoo.

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