A water quality sample being collected from a creek in the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve System, NERRS
Our nation’s coastal waters, estuaries, rivers, streams and Great Lakes are monitored to ensure they are safe for recreation, drinking and for protection of the environment. In doing so, federal, state, and local governments along with non-profit organizations monitor the chemical, physical and biological characteristics.
An individual monitoring local water conditions may collect samples for temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, pathogens, nutrients and contaminants. In the occurrence of a river or stream, the physical characteristics can influence downstream conditions so data may be collected on flow and bottom type. The abundance and type of plant and animal fauna are important indicators of water conditions; and, therefore may be part of sampling. The data collected through the monitoring activities can be used to detect trends, identify emerging problems, and to evaluate the effectiveness of pollution control programs.
Monitoring is done in distinct ways and for different purposes. Samples can be collected by hand and analyzed in a laboratory or monitored by an in situ sensor affixed to a buoy or stationary platform. Monitoring may be conducted at regular intervals or continuously at fixed stations, seasonally or at a selected site because of an event.
Water quality data are collected from sensors attached to a Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) Buoy. The data can be transmitted from the buoy and accessed in near-real time.
Lastly, the responsibility of monitoring our nation’s waters resides with local, state, and federal officials and the academic and private sectors.The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System, IOOS, is making efforts to enhance the collection, management and use of water quality information. Efforts in monitoring and data collection, and improved data access for development of decision support tools are succeeding in the IOOS Regional Associations. Through partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), efforts are progressing to ensure efforts are coordinated.
IOOS has identified specific variables related to monitoring water quality in our nation's waters. IOOS variables include, but are not limited to temperature, salinity, ocean color, dissolved oxygen, pH, pathogens, dissolved nutrients, optical properties, total suspended matter, colored dissolved organic matter and contaminants.
State public health agencies, in conjunction with local governments, often monitor for pathogens at swimming beaches with the purpose of using the information to decide if beach waters are safe for recreational use. The predominant methods used to test for the indicator bacteria enterococcus or E. coli can take up to 24-hours before results are returned. Health officials are therefore posting or lifting advisories based on the previous day’s water quality samples. To improve advisory decision making, forecast modeling techniques are needed which can provide a more timely indication of whether an advisory should be issued for a beach area.
While a limited number of independent modeling efforts have been undertaken at the federal level (e.g., Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Virtual Beach (VB)) and within Regional Associations (RAs) (e.g., SECOORA-supported efforts) at a discrete number of swimming beaches, there remains a need to evaluate and, as appropriate, implement these decision support tools at the local level.
In collaboration between the EPA, the IOOS Office, the three East Coast IOOS RAs: the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA); Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS); Northeastern Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (NERACOOS), the United State Geological Survey (USGS) and associated local water quality and public health managers, there is an opportunity to further advance the development of integrated beach water quality decision support tools. Enabling more efficient, routine and effective use of monitoring data from an array of available water quality and meteorological observing platforms, and remotely sensed products, model output will benefit the public by way of more timely delivery of swimming advisories or other relevant beach water quality information. The partnership between federal, regional and local partners will leverage existing efforts in data collection, modeling and management.
The objective of this project is to advance development of decision support tools for improved forecasting capabilities that can facilitate public health officials’ decisions on issuing beach swimming advisories and contribute to a real-time notification system that will alert the public to beach swimming conditions.
The U.S. IOOS Program is providing the data integration framework for enabling development of climatologies and related valued-added products for NOAA’s Integrated Protected Area Climate Tool (IMPACT) Project. The NOAA IMPACT Project set in motion collaboration to develop climate tools that will inform managers of Marine Protected Areas in South Florida and in particular, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Florida Bay of climate trends, potential changes in ecosystem health, and predictable near-term climate impacts.
The collaboration partners the U.S. IOOS Program, the National Center for Coastal Ocean Sciences (NCCOS), the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) and the Florida International University (FIU). The U.S. IOOS Program is supporting the development and implementation of a water quality data standard for in situ observations collected by FIU. For data users, implementing a water quality data format standard and Web service will mean broad data access through interoperability. As a result, the IMPACT Project team will be able to easily draw on data collected in disparate formats to develop products for sanctuary managers.
IOOS members in the Great Lakes Region are working to maintain and expand a network of water quality monitoring buoys that report water temperature, conductivity, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. The data collected are used to predict pathogen levels for swimming beaches, among other things. More information on GLOS’s monitoring activities can be found here: http://glos.us/projects/observations
An implementation of a preemptive advisory beach water quality tool has been demonstrated for a section of the South Carolina coast that addresses the need for more timely advisories for beach shellfish bed closures due to elevated bacterial levels (Fletcher et al., 20091; Kelsey et al., 2010). The University of South Carolina collaborated with the SCDHEC, NOAA, Raytheon, Inc. and the University of Maryland to improve current models used to assist in beach closure decisions. In addition, enhancements were made to rainfall gauges within existing monitoring programs and an online portal was created. The decision support tool has resulted in more accurate and timely beach closure forecasts, with reduced false positive and lower indirect community costs by eliminating unwarranted advisories. More information about water quality in SECOORA can be found here: http://secoora.org/about/theme_areas/ecosystems
In Hawaii, one of the main concerns on Oahu’s south shore is pollution from runoff. Large rain storms can carry land-based pollutants into coastal waters. Regional IOOS members use a variety of chemical and biological sensors, underwater vehicles, and nutrient sensors to monitor near shore water quality. Scientists provide real-time observations that improve our understanding of ocean acidification, enable more effective measures to protect our healthy coastal marine ecosystems, and enhance understanding of and response to marine events that impact public health. More information on PacIOOS water quality monitoring activities can be found here: http://oos.soest.hawaii.edu/pacioos/focus/wq/
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 are using IOOS regional data from a coastal buoy in Great Bay and the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to help set water quality standards for the Great Bay. Learn more about the Great Bay buoy and the data it collects from http://www.cooa.unh.edu/data/buoys/great_bay/. These standards help protect coastal habitats in the Great Bay Estuary.
More information can be found on the NERACOOS Websites: http://www.neracoos.org/projects/.
Gliders are remotely operated, mobile platforms capable of continuously monitoring water quality parameters on broad spatial and temporal scales. Photograph of the Scarlet Knight Glider off the coast of New Jersey.
Photo credit: Rutgers University
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) have demonstrated the combined use of discrete, probabilistic, and continuous monitoring data from various Federal, State, and Interstate agencies to characterize the spatial and temporal distributions of dissolved oxygen and nutrients in the Delaware River Basin from the watersheds, estuaries, to coastal areas. The DRBC, in conjunction with the USGS, has developed and demonstrated a Real Time Water Quality E-mail Notification System that can be scaled to a National Level. The Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water Monitoring and Standards have partnered to establish daily chlorophyll assessments for New Jersey’s coastal waters using aircraft remote sensing for improved monitoring of HABs. More information can be found here: http://maracoos.org/water_quality
The National Water Quality Monitoring Network (NWQMN) provides information about the health of our oceans and coastal ecosystems, as well as inland influences on coastal waters for improved resource management. U.S. IOOS partners, EPA, USGS, and NOAA, co-lead this effort with participation from other federal agencies. Each year, government agencies, industry, academia, and private organizations devote significant time, energy, and money to monitor, protect, manage, and restore water resources and watersheds. However, differences in project design, methods, data analysis, and data management have often made it difficult for monitoring information and results to be shared and used by all. The restoration and protection of water quality is dependent upon detailed, understandable, and easily accessible data and information, which will be provided through the full implementation of U.S. IOOS.
Since 2007, the NWQMN has piloted and implemented concepts in San Francisco Bay, the Delaware River Estuary, and the Great Lakes in coordination with the CeNCOOS, MARACOOS and GLOS regional associations. The projects have demonstrated the added value of real-time monitoring with sensors and autonomous underwater vehicles alongside more traditional monitoring. More on the National Water Quality Monitoring Network.
Successful integration of science based assessments for understanding and predicting water quality problems were explored in an Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Regional Association, multiagency water quality workshop in January 2010. Scientists, coastal resource managers and public health officials from three IOOS® Regional Associations: the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association, the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association, and the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems discussed hypoxia, nutrient enrichment, harmful algal blooms and beach water quality in context of implemented science based assessments. The workshop discussions scanned the needs, gaps and challenges of monitoring, modeling, research and management decision making and identified actions to resolve some of these many issues. Beach water quality emerged as the top priority for collaboration between the three IOOS Regional Associations, USGS, USEPA, and NOAA for development of an integrated decision support tool. More information on the workshop proceedings can be found here: (http://acwi.gov/monitoring/ network/3reg_wkshop. html).
IOOS Partners with involvement in water quality monitoring, data collection, modeling and sensor technology.
IOOS RAs (NFRA): http://www.usnfra.org/
Alliance for Coastal Technologies: http://www.act-us.info/