After speaking to several of our customers we have identified the top 5 challenges that one may face when collecting water quality data. This post will address challenge number 2. With the expertise of our very own product manager’s and technical support team, we are sharing how to deal with and/or avoid these typical frustrations and how new industry technology can help tackle these big issues.
Anyone dedicated to monitoring natural aquatic environments, such as rivers, lakes, wetlands, oceans, estuaries, and ground water should keep reading.
Ongoing repair & maintenance costs eat up my budget. Why can’t field instruments last longer? What are we doing to address these issues?
- Improved wet-mate connectors and cables.
- Advancements in material science.
- Keeping your sensors clean.
- Factory Preventative Service Program.
Alright, on to Challenge #2.
Uncertainty with Future Projects, Legislation, & Technology Keep My Program in Flux. Which instrument Can I rely on for the Next Decade?
The second major issue is uncertainty. Quite simply, uncertainty with future project requirements and with aging monitoring equipment.
There are a lot of outside forces that can affect monitoring programs, and one main force is legislation. New regulations can change monitoring requirements in an instant, increasing your workload, and potentially requiring the purchase of new equipment.
For instance, in the past few years, the US EPA has rolled out a national initiative for nutrient reduction. In response, a lot of groups are now being asked to monitor nitrate levels, which they may not have done before. While examining human impacts on our waterways is definitely a valid policy, it’s unexpected projects like this that may make monitoring programs cringe.
Groups have to become flexible to take on this challenge, which requires flexible technology. Problem is… flexibility with older technology isn’t quite so easy to come by. How long can groups feasibly continue to use monitoring equipment and software that was developed potentially more than 20 years ago?
It’s more difficult than ever to simply connect and pull data from older instruments. As consumer electronics rush forward with new operating systems, hardware, and communication options, it’s a challenge to even stay compatible these days with older systems. Also, quite a bit of aging equipment depends on outdated processors and memory. You can’t even buy most of this anymore as a consumer.
The good news is that there have been big strides made toward improving the flexibility of continuous water quality monitoring equipment in recent years. The main focus of product development has shifted to modularity and providing users the ability to create customizable sensor configurations. Rigid instruments are becoming a thing of the past. Look for versatile equipment that can be used in an array of applications, whether that’s profiling a lake or long-term monitoring in an estuary.
If you need to monitor dissolved oxygen, temperature, and algae concentrations this season, and pH, turbidity, and ammonia levels next season, then you should really only need one piece of equipment. Dozens of application-specific instruments are now being consolidated into one or two systems that are a jack-of-all-trades style instrument. Purchasing monitoring equipment is an investment; make sure it pays off by supporting your varying needs over the next 5-10 years. Is it able to spot sample if needed? Can you leave it out unattended for a period of time? Is it possible to consolidate it as part of a larger monitoring network with a buoyed system? Can you access the data when you need it? Are sensors user-replaceable and interchangeable?
Also, to make your data more accessible, look for equipment with built-in Bluetooth and the ability to easily connect to a computer via a USB connection for cable-free calibrations. A great example of a piece of instrumentation that does this is the EXO sonde.
Read Challenge #3 – Incomplete and inaccurate data. Significant resources are wasted when data is missing or instruments are not properly configured.
Additional Blog Posts of Interest:
Water Quality Monitoring Challenges | 1 of 5
Water Quality Monitoring Challenges | 3 of 5
A Breakthrough in Multiparameter Water Quality Sampling and Profiling
Expert Tips for Continuous Water Quality Monitoring | YSI, Aquatic Informatics and Pennsylvania DEP