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Watching water quality: part two ‘Sondes’ make continuous monitoring possible

The multi-probe datasondes device is installed in waterways and protected within this tubular shield.

September 14, 2011

Playing an increasingly important role in documenting water quality in the region is a device with an unusual name. Multi-probe datasondes (sondes) are high-tech monitoring devices placed in regional waterways, which will substantially enhance data gathered in the two-decade Scenic Rivers Monitoring Program (SRMP) detailed in last week’s issue of The River Reporter.

The SRMP represents a long-standing partnership between the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and the National Park Service (NPS). Use of the specialized sondes brings a third partner, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), into the equation. The USGS/NPS Water Quality Partnership Project co-locates the monitors, data platforms and satellite transmitters with existing USGS gages.

While nine datasondes are already in place, four new continuous water-quality monitors will be installed at three Delaware River sites (Lordville, NY; Barryville, NY; Montague, NJ) and one Lackawaxen River site (Rowland, PA), to perform real-time monitoring of key water quality parameters including dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, temperature and turbidity.

This will enable the NPS to better document diurnal and seasonal fluctuations in water quality, improve the definitions of existing water quality (EWQ) upon which current Special Protection Waters (SPW) standards are based, establish long-term monitoring to assess “measureable change,” provide data and a water-quality record capable of documenting changes that may be attributable to specific activities, reduce the cost of data collection through the utilization of advanced technologies and form collaborative partnerships to improve monitoring capabilities.

NPS national resource specialist Don Hamilton said the sondes will reveal more than the data obtained from bi-weekly grab samples that are limited by seasonal access. The study will also aid in the development of regulatory standards for tributaries and provide a tool for the DRBC to act upon decisions that impact water quality.

The multi-probe datasondes device is installed in waterways and protected within this tubular shield.