A water quality sample being collected from a creek in the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve System, NERRS
Water quality information is important to public safety, our environment, and our nation’s economy. IOOS is combining marine data to improve the ability of coastal communities to monitor water quality and protect public health with early warnings. Monitoring water quality is also important for minimizing negative impacts to the environment. Fishermen also use water quality information to know where to catch healthy fish. This keeps seafood safe and reduces monetary losses the fisheries would have experienced on unsafe catches.
The Great Lakes region is one example of IOOS in action on water quality. IOOS members there are working to maintain and expand a network of water quality monitoring buoys that report water temperature, conductivity, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. These data are used to create E. coli predictions for swimming beaches, among other things.
In the southeast, a new model that indicates the presence of a harmful bacterium is also helping health officials decide with more accuracy when it is unsafe to head to the beach. IOOS members at the University of South Carolina paired up with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Raytheon, NOAA and the University of Maryland to improve the timeliness of data used to determine whether to issue swimming advisories. Prior to the formation of this partnership, routine water quality samples at ocean beaches testing for the bacterium were based on data at least 24 hours old. This made timely decisions impossible and errors did occur. Now, data including wind, weather, current, and salinity, tell decision makers when the hazard is actually present to improve public health protection.
Hawaii is another example. Though residents and visitors there enjoy excellent year-round water quality, various events can still cause negative impacts. One of the main water concerns on Oahu’s south shore is pollution. Large rain storms or sewage spills, for example, can carry land-based pollutants to sea. Regional IOOS members use a variety of chemical and biological sensors, underwater vehicles, and nutrient samples to monitor near shore water quality. Scientists supply real-time observations that improve our understanding of ocean acidification, more effectively protect healthy coastal marine ecosystems, and enhance understanding of and response to marine events that impact public health.
And in the northeast region, IOOS members are helping water quality managers by providing unprecedented hourly water quality data and testing new technologies, such as continuous nutrient monitoring systems. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services uses IOOS regional data from a coastal buoy in Great Bay and the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to help set water quality standards. These standards help protect coastal habitats in the Great Bay Estuary.