Water Quality Monitoring in Story County
Story County Water Monitoring & Interpretation Plan, 2021-2030
Prairie Rivers partnered with Story County and 8 other organizations to develop a ten-year Water Quality Monitoring & Interpretation Plan for Story County. Regular communication between the various groups testing water helps avoid duplication and leads to new opportunities to improve water quality. Planning for how data can be used over the long-term ensures that we get the most value from our time and effort. Read the full plan here.
Understanding water quality in Story County lakes and rivers is a big job with many components:
Volunteer Water Monitoring
Prairie Rivers has been continuing the long tradition of organizing volunteer “watershed snapshot” events in May and October. We also make supplies available to local science teachers.
Staff from Prairie Rivers, the City of Ames, and volunteers collect monthly water samples from 15 sites around the county which the City of Ames Water and Pollution Control Laboratory tests for nutrients, sediment, and bacteria. Results are posted here and updated within two weeks of sampling.
We’re partnering with Dr. Jacob Petrich from the ISU Chemistry Department to narrow down sources of fecal bacteria contamination by looking a tracer (optical brighteners) found in laundry detergents.
Analyzing the Data
Is water quality improving? That’s a harder question to answer than you might think. Our Watershed Educator, Dan Haug, has been learning the programming language R and statistics and trying to translate the findings for the rest of us: i.e. “If you sample on Mondays, you might get a different result than if you sample on Fridays.”
We presented a poster on this concept (Minimum Detectable Change) at the 2021 Iowa Water Conference.
It’s also a common topic on our blog:
By understanding the margins of error associated with water quality averages, we ensure there’s not a mismatch between the size of changes we can detect and the size of changes we would expect from conservation projects. We can improve our ability to detect trends by changing the monitoring setup or analysis. Place-to-place rather than year-to-year comparisons are less susceptible to this kind of error, though not fool-proof.
Our goal is to make sure our conclusions are robust and relevant to our stakeholders.
Questions about the plan, the data or how you can get involved?
Contact Dan Haug at Prairie Rivers of Iowa