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How Is Fresh Water Quality Measured for Organic Pollutants?
Monday, January 27, 2020

The tired and longstanding way to say that something is difficult is to say it's like finding a needle in a haystack. When it comes to testing the quality of water, take that old metaphor and add the complication that the needle and the haystack are both moving and getting bigger daily.

Despite these difficulties, it's not an impossible task. Which leaves you wonder how is water quality measured?

To catch a moving target, you need a much bigger net. Studies indicate that no single set of measurements will fit the bill. What you need is a lot of measurements and the statistical, big data, tools to identify a fuller picture.

Nothing is impossible if it can be broken down into discrete steps. Read on to learn how these steps contribute to a working solution.

How Is Water Quality Measured?

It's not practical to know what chemicals are present in every drop of water at any given time. Much like a snapshot, you can only determine what is there at that moment. And often, to do that, it requires removing that water drop to perform the tests.

This is why water quality tests look for known bad actors. In particular, the existence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is watched for. These chemicals have known adverse effects on humans and animals.

Monitoring Equipment

The first step is to pick up samples of conditions from bodies of water. Researchers do this using a variety of different monitors to detect specific chemicals within a specific range.

Tests take time to run and each monitor can only do so much. Monitors also take up space, so it's impractical to create a tight grid of them and hope to have anything else in the water.

Spatial Changes

Spatial change monitoring takes a look at the concentration of a substance, one or more POPs, in an area. If these POPs remain in an area and that area gets larger over time, that's an obvious problem.

The less obvious issue is when these hot spots of POPs shift from one place to another. Spatial monitoring is therefore also concerned with flow rates and direction of the chemicals.

Are they diluting as they move through? Are they clumping? And what directions are the clumps heading so that they can be tracked?

Temporal Changes

Next, the water is monitored for changes in the concentrations of POPs over time. POPs that quickly move are less of a threat than those that linger.

The amount of POPs that sit in an area provides information on deterioration rates that can be measured against damage in the environment.

Statistical Analysis

Taking the samples provided by monitoring equipment and then mapping it against the spatial and temporal changes provides an overall picture.

These numbers can be compared against mandated water quality parameters to determine if the water is safe, improving, or deteriorating.

Gather Some Data

As you can see, answering "How is water quality measured?" takes equipment and know-how. As testing protocols improve, tour ability to create an accurate picture of conditions will be enhanced.

Testing your own water provides vital information to complete this picture and gives you first-hand reference points. Contact us for more information about water quality and chemical monitoring.

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