How to Select the Right Water Quality Instrument

Select the Right Water Quality Instrument

Whether you are purchasing a water quality instrument for the first time or you are looking to add to your existing fleet, there are always a few key considerations to evaluate before taking the plunge and purchasing a new piece of instrumentation.

What Parameters Do I Want to Measure?

Our tech support team will occasionally receive calls from someone who wants to measure “everything”. This person may have great intentions and want to get large amounts of data for many parameters but there are reasons why this may not be the best idea. What are some of those reasons? Let us take a look.

Your budget may not be able to accommodate “everything” and it may not be possible to measure all of the parameters “everything” would include with a single instrument. Therefore, think about your project and think about what you are trying to accomplish. Your project must have some type of scope or purpose so consider the main objective of that project and create your parameter list from those objectives.

And although it’s a good idea from the budgetary standpoint to only get the sensors for the parameters you absolutely must have, you may want to try to get an instrument that allows for future expansion or can be used with another project down the road similar to the sampling handhelds ProDSS, ProQuatro, or ProSwap or perhaps multiparameter monitoring instrumentation like EXO sondes.

Instrumentation with too narrow of a parameter set or limited versatility may render it a challenge to use again for other projects. 

More about the parameters you measure.

What is My Budget?

It’s a simple question, right? How much do I want to spend? Sometimes this isn’t an easy question to answer. You may have a grant or a proposal in the works with a set dollar amount and in those cases, your options may be limited, but if you are in the process of budgeting or writing that proposal it would be a great idea to educate yourself on what is out there.

You may ask yourself, “How much would it cost for me to measure all the parameters I want to measure for long-term monitoring?” and in your mind, you are thinking maybe a couple of thousand dollars but in reality instrumentation like that can easily cost upwards of $15000. Shop around, talk to educated sales representatives and ask your peers what they use for monitoring to get a good idea of what may work for you. Sometimes buying this type of instrumentation can be as important of a decision as buying a car.

Other questions to ask yourself during the budgetary stage are: What are the ongoing costs associated with this instrumentation? Do I need to buy calibration standards regularly? Do I need additional accessories like a carrying case or specific cleaning kits for this instrumentation? How much does that cost over a one, two, three year period? Does the instrumentation require yearly service or should you budget for YSI Services? All of these should be considered when determining your budget. The last thing you want to do is spend your entire budget on the instrumentation and then surprisingly discover you need another few hundred or a few thousand dollars over the next few years to keep it running.

How Am I Going to Use this Instrumentation?

Some instrumentation is designed to be used for specific types of applications like lab use, spot sampling, process monitoring, or long-term unattended data collection for example. Think about your intended use of Choosing the right instrumentation -Field-Shotthe instrumentation and if it is something that you want to be lightweight because you have to hike 3 miles to the site or if you want it to be permanently installed so it can run all the time and be able to withstand 100-year floods and hurricanes.

Perhaps you are in a lab setting and want something with a large display. Maybe you are raising shrimp and you want to be able to have access to the water quality status of your ponds when you aren’t there so you need networking capabilities with 24/7 access to your system. Maybe you want notifications sent to you when specific parameters reach a critical level or you want feeders, lights, or aerators to turn on automatically based on water quality parameters or based on timers. These are all questions you should ask yourself before trying to pick which instrument you want to invest in.

Learn more about your applications.

What Do I Want to Do with the Data?

You are looking at obtaining instrumentation in order to collect water quality data right? Well, what do you want to do with that data once you collect it or how do you want to collect the data? Some people prefer to take their readings and just write them down while others would prefer to store the data on the device and upload and export it to a spreadsheet or a database later.

In long-term monitoring, you may want to log the data internally to the instrument or perhaps have it connected to a telemetry system where the data is sent via satellite to a web-based server such as Hydrosphere or AquaViewer. There are several other options as well and all of these options can affect which instrument you choose and then indirectly can affect the budget and which parameters you can measure. Give some thought to the data management before you select an instrument and be sure to look into the instrumentation’s capabilities before you commit your resources to it. You don’t want to find out after you’ve purchased something it doesn’t have the capabilities you need for data collection or processing.

What Accessories Should I Consider?

All instrumentation has accessories available based on the common needs of most customers. There are the standard carrying cases, belt clips, car chargers, antifouling solutions, and cable reels for field instruments but there are also accessories designed specifically for applications in the lab and for groundwater like tripods and flow cells. There are likely additional accessories available for specific mounting or installation setups to attach instrumentation to panels or rails for example. Consider what would be the most important ones for you when you are budgeting for your project.

Other items that would fall into the accessory category would be consumables for your instrumentation. This may include calibration solutions, cleaning brushes, membranes, tubing, filters, or perhaps even extra sensors. Many of these types of items require an ongoing cost to consider. So just like your car, your water quality instrumentation needs ongoing maintenance to keep it running according to the manufacturer’s specifications.


All of the topics discussed here work together and can directly or indirectly affect which instrument is the best one for what you need to accomplish. Considering all of this information before you go shopping will give you a better handle on the purchasing process and it will help ensure you get the instrument for your needs and hopefully something that will work for your future needs as well. Get in touch with us and we’ll get someone in contact with you who can help you make sure you get exactly what you need to make sure your water quality data collection is a success.

Hopefully you now have a better idea of the water quality instrumentation you are looking for. 


Additional Blog Posts of Interest

Which Water Quality Handheld Instrument Do I Need? | We Have the Answer

Water Quality Monitoring Challenges | 1-5

Continuous Water Quality Monitoring at Newport Aquarium Keeps the Sharks Happy

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1 Responses to this article

Very good information.


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