Linking water quality concerns with solutions

In order to act on your water sampling results, it is important to consult with local residents and agency staff who are knowledgeable about historic and current stream conditions and surrounding land uses. It is also helpful to use the WWKY Data Portal, Google Maps or Google Earth or other mapping tools, and visual surveys, to assess upstream and adjacent land uses that may be affecting water quality conditions.

Finding High Bacteria (E. coli) Levels?

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is naturally found in the intestinal tract of all warm-blooded animals and does not represent a direct human health threat when found in natural streams and waterways. However, it is measured as an indicator of potential accompanying threats from fecal contamination, including waste from humans, livestock, wildlife, and pets. Fecal matter can contain bacteria and pathogens that may cause waterborne diseases or infections. Therefore, high E. coli concentrations indicate the greater likelihood that human contact with the water could cause health issues.

Click here for suggestions to reduce bacteria levels in your waterbody.

Finding Low Dissolved Oxygen Levels?

As with humans, adequate oxygen levels in the water (dissolved oxygen) are necessary for the survival of aquatic life and the ecosystems that they support. Levels of dissolved oxygen (D.O.) are affected by a variety of factors, including:

  • Water temperature (lower temperature waters contain higher levels of D.O., whereas higher temperature waters contain relatively lower levels of D.O.)

  • Aerobic (oxygen-consuming) decomposition of decaying plants and animals

  • Water flowing over rocks and other obstacles, allowing mixing of water with air

Click here for suggestions to improve oxygen levels in your waterbody.

Finding Low pH?

At low pH values, toxic metals are more soluble, making them more available for uptake by aquatic plants and animals and potentially causing added stress. Many factors can affect pH, from plant photosynthesis to acid mine drainage. So, it is important to assess surrounding land uses, as well as instream conditions, when developing action strategies for addressing low pH conditions.

Click here for suggestions to help minimize threats of low pH to your waterbody.

Finding High Conductivity?

Conductivity is a measure of the capacity of the water to carry an electrical current. It can naturally vary depending on the location of the waterbody and the underlying bedrock and soils. This measurement can also serve as a general indicator of water contamination. Inorganic substances, such as road salts, conduct electrical currents. So, as salinity increases, conductivity also increases. In contrast, organic compounds (e.g., oil and petroleum) do not conduct electrical current as much and therefore have a low conductivity in water.

High conductivity levels (generally above 500 to 1,000, depending on geographic location) can cause stress on aquatic organisms and can impact water supplies for drinking water and industral uses. Click here for recommendations.

Finding High Temperatures?

Temperature can influence a variety of water quality parameters, including dissolved oxygen (D.O.). Temperature and D.O. have an inverse relationship--as temperatures rise, D.O. tends to decrease. Thus, warmer waters in the summer may become very low in dissolved oxygen levels, causing stress on aquatic life.

Many plants, animals and organisms living in streams are adapted to a specific range of water temperatures, so fluctuations can threaten their survival. Aquatic creatures can become more susceptible to disease, parasites and toxins in warmer water.

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Finding High Nitrogen and/or Phosphorus Levels?

While nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, are necessary for healthy plant growth and biological processes, they can cause water quality issues in overabundant amounts. High nutrient levels can cause nuisance plant and algae growth. When the plants and algae die off and decompose, dissolved oxygen levels can plummet, causing stressful or toxic conditions for aquatic animals. SOme species of algae can be toxic to people, livestock and pets. When these types of algae grow out of control, they can create "harmful algal blooms" (HABs). You can read more about HABs and how WWKY is assisting the Kentucky Division of Water in the detection of blooms here.

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