Water Quality

Stream scholars analyze the DO of Skaggs Run (Photo courtesy of the Cacapon Institute)
Water samples should be collected from the most represented portion of a stream, which is usually the run (a fast moving area without surface breaks) and as close to the downstream end of the reach as possible.  Analysis can be performed either in the field or lab.  Most of your results should fall within the excellent or good ranges.  The exceptions are pH (marginal – excellent) and dissolved oxygen (marginal – excellent).  Note: The total metals category is a combination of all metals that may be present.  Click-Here for an overview on basic water chemistry. 

The formula to convert temperature from Fahrenheit ºF to Celsius ºC is:
([ºF - 32] ÷ 9) x 5 = ºC

Constituents

Excellent

Good

Marginal

Poor

Units

Alkalinity 

> 40

21 - 40

5 - 20

< 5

ppm

pH 

7.6 - 9.0

6.5 - 7.5

6.0 - 6.5

< 6.0 > 9.0

 

Dissolved oxygen

> 10.0 

7.0 - 10.0

7.0 - 5.0 

< 5.0

ppm

Conductivity 

50 - 250

250 - 500

< 50 

> 500

µs/cm

Nitrates/Phosphates

< 1.0

1.0 - 2.0

2.0 - 4.0

> 4.0

ppm

Metals 

< 1.0

1.0 - 1.5

1.6 - 3.0

> 3.0

ppm

Bacteria 

< 100

100 - 200

201 - 400

> 400

CFU

Note: The values provided here are for guidance and educational purposes; they do not necessarily conform to water quality standards and in some cases a standard may not exists (e.g. nutrients, conductivity etc.).  However, the values are based upon ranges that maintain the ecological integrity of many stream environments.  Click-Here to learn more
 
 Additional Resources
  1. A citizen’s guide to monitoring lakes and streams (Washington Dept. of Ecology - dated but still an excellent resource)
  2. An introduction to the properties of water (Wikipedia) 
  3. Bacteria Monitoring (A Methods Manual for Citizen Volunteers)
  4. Learn how to determine the % saturation of dissolved oxygen
  5. Marcellous shale monitoring resources (Dickinson College)
  6. Periodic Table of Elements 
  7. Overview of pollutant Loads (A vareity of resources that provide a better understanding as well as tools for calculating pollutant loads) 
  8. River Networks virtual training: Water quality standards 
  9. Survey data sheet from WV Save Our Streams to evaluate physiochemical conditions
  10. Trout Unlimited's Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program; Click-Here to download the manual
  11. US EPA's Water Quality Standards Academy
  12. Wolf Creek Evaluation: Analyze the conditions of a watershed using basic water chemistry.  Go to this ACTIVITY to learn more.  Note: Requires a pdf download to submit your answers.
  13. Learn more on the American Chemical Society's (ACS) website   
To learn more about water quality data collected by WAB from our rivers and streams use this on-line tool for your queries.  Click-Here to query data from WAB ambient stations

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