Join Our New Adopt-A-Sensor Program!
As we gear up for another field season and can’t wait to jump into the river, we should think about the little ones that have been there all year. No, not the bugs and fish, our remote sensors. Those little robots gather continuously data and allow us to see trends much more clearly than a stream-side sample. MWA’s Water Quality program has been deploying a mix of live and downloadable sensors all across the watershed over the last few years. These sensors have the ability to take readings every five minutes. That is a lot of data! Depending on which type of sensor, they may collect information on: depth, temperature, conductivity (salinity), and turbidity (cloudiness).
While these sensors allow us to collect enormous amounts of data without us needing to be on-site, they still need some TLC. Regular maintenance is required to assure that the data they are collecting is accurate. Along with maintenance, some of our sensors need to have the data offloaded every month or so. This can be accomplished with a very simple and free smartphone app and a Bluetooth connection. These sensors are called HOBO’s, and the app is aptly named HOBOmobile and can be found on Google Play (for Androids) and the Apple Store (for iPhones). The live sensors, EnviroDIY, transmit data to a website called Monitor My Watershed. They need cleaning about once a week from spring through fall (especially when the leaves drop) and every two weeks in winter. A simple scrub brush is used to clean algae and clear leaves from around the sensor bundle. Additional quality control is preformed quarterly with handheld meters and rulers or when the data starts to show results we don't typically see. After Tropical Storm Isaias last August, our turbidity sensor at the Bloomsbury Water Co. showed extremely high readings. Upon inspection, we found it buried under a foot of sediment deposited by the storm. It must have been hilarious for the birds to watch a crazy person digging in the river. This is an extreme case, but an example of how the data can tell us when maintenance is required.
These experiences have taught us that we need stewardship. So, MWA is launching our Adopt-A-Sensor initiative. If you have 20 minutes every couple of weeks and would like to have a reason to visit the river (like you need one), Adopt-A-Sensor! We will provide you with scrub brushes and training. You will need a smartphone and a pair of waterproof boots or waders. This is a great way to keep in tune with what is happening in the river and contribute, not just to the MWA and your community, but the entire Delaware Basin. This data is used by scientists at Stroud Water Research Center to analyze larger scale trends in water quality and quantity. This research allows us to prepare for climate change and understand broad ecological impacts of things like road salt use and stormwater.