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Monitoring Water
Quality
Environmental Monitoring
All wastes entering the environment are potentially
harmful, but some more so than others. Pesticides,
petroleum products, and heavy-metal wastes are
examples of pollutants that can cause irreversible
damage to the environment.
Both persistent and non-persistent wastes are a
concern if they become concentrated enough to harm
living organisms. By monitoring the environment, we
can we detect the presence and determine the
concentration of harmful substances.
Water Quality Testing
A detailed knowledge of chemistry helps
understand and detect. Most pollutants eventually
find their way into water, either by being washed
out of the atmosphere in rainfall and snow such as
acid precipitation, or by direct seepage.
By knowing the correct chemical tests for a
pollutant, it is possible to determine the presence,
or absence, of that pollutant within a water sample.
Chemical Factors
Five important chemical factors are important in indicating the quality of
water.
1. Undissolved Solids
2. Phosphates & Nitrates
3. Dissolved Oxygen
4. Dissolved Carbon Dioxide
5. Heavy Metals
Undissolved Solids
Undissolved particles can make water look cloudy.
Often these solids are due to the erosion of land by
the river, but can also be due to untreated
wastewater and industrial waste that enters the
river.
It not only makes the water look unpleasant, but it
blocks sunlight, which means water plants can’t
photosynthesize and add dissolved oxygen to the
water, affecting the survival of fish and other
organisms.
Wastewater treatment plants usually remove all of
the undissolved solids from wastewater, unless the
city produces more waste than the wastewater
treatment plant can fully process.
Undissolved Solids
To measure undissolved solids you pass of water
from each sample through a piece of filter paper.
Before filtering the water you measure the mass of
the filter paper. After filtering, you allow the filter
paper to dry and then measure the mass of the
filter paper and undissolved solids combined.
The mass in milligrams of undissolved solids per
liter of water is equivalent to the concentration of
undissolved solids in parts per million (ppm).
Phosphates & Nitrates
Phosphates and nitrates are nutrients that help plants grow. They are found in plant
fertilizers as well as animal wastes. Phosphates have also been added to detergents
and soaps to help clean things efficiently.
Eutrophication is directly caused by phosphates and nitrates since they contain
phosphorus and nitrogen that are essential nutrients to algae growth.
Dissolved Oxygen
Many organisms require oxygen to survive. The number and type of
organisms living in the water is affected by the availability of dissolved
oxygen. Most organisms require dissolved oxygen concentrations above 5.0
ppm. Without enough oxygen, fish and other organisms can’t survive.
Measuring Dissolved Oxygen
To measure dissolved oxygen, you add manganese sulfate and alkaline iodine azide to the
samples, and stir the mixture. If oxygen is present, you expect a brownish-orange solid to
form. Once the solid settles, you add sulfamic acid to the sample, the solid dissolves, and the
water turns yellow. Finally, you add sodium thiosulfate one drop at a time until the sample
just turns clear. The number of drops of sodium thiosulfate needed to turn the solution clear
indicates the dissolved oxygen concentration.
Dissolved Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide, CO2, is produced by animals as a waste product of cellular
respiration. Plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. In a water ecosystem, low
dissolved oxygen concentrations often occur at the same time as high carbon
dioxide concentrations because the organisms using up the oxygen are also
producing CO2. When the CO2 concentrations are high, fish and other organisms
can have a hard time taking in oxygen.
Measuring Dissolved Carbon Dioxide
To test for dissolved carbon dioxide, you add 5
drops of the indicator phenolphthalein to the
sample. If a pink colour forms and then quickly
disappears, there is carbon dioxide present.
Next, you add sodium hydroxide solution drop
by drop until the sample turns light pink.
The number of drops of sodium hydroxide
solution required to change the colour to pink
indicates the carbon dioxide concentration.
Heavy Metals
Elements like copper, lead, zinc,
mercury, cadmium and nickel that can
be present in products such as
batteries, rubber tires, gasoline,
paints, pipes, and thermometers.
Many industrial or manufacturing
processes result in these pollutants
entering water systems. They are
highly toxic to a many organisms.
Measuring Heavy Metals
Each heavy metal will have its own
chemical test to determine the
presence and amount of that element
in the water.
Other Water Pollutants
1. Acids
◦ With too much air pollution, acid rain forms and can affect water quality.
2. Pesticides
◦ Pesticides can be toxic, even in small doses.
3. Salts
◦ Salts such as sodium chloride (NaCl) or magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) come
from many sources.
Biological Indicators
Biological Indicators are living things that can reveal the amount and
effects of pollution.
The health of aquatic organisms can determine water quality. Aquatic life
such as fish, insects, and micro-organisms.
Biological Indicators
Some species cannot survive in polluted water, while others are able to tolerate
polluted water.
Identifying the organisms present in a sample of water can help to determine
the relative quality of a body of water.
Stonefly larvae, water penny beetle larvae and gilled snails are examples of
aquatic species that are sensitive to poor water quality conditions, such as low
dissolved oxygen concentrations. Larger populations of these species indicate
higher water quality.
Biological Indicators

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Monitoring water quality

  • 2. Environmental Monitoring All wastes entering the environment are potentially harmful, but some more so than others. Pesticides, petroleum products, and heavy-metal wastes are examples of pollutants that can cause irreversible damage to the environment. Both persistent and non-persistent wastes are a concern if they become concentrated enough to harm living organisms. By monitoring the environment, we can we detect the presence and determine the concentration of harmful substances.
  • 3. Water Quality Testing A detailed knowledge of chemistry helps understand and detect. Most pollutants eventually find their way into water, either by being washed out of the atmosphere in rainfall and snow such as acid precipitation, or by direct seepage. By knowing the correct chemical tests for a pollutant, it is possible to determine the presence, or absence, of that pollutant within a water sample.
  • 4. Chemical Factors Five important chemical factors are important in indicating the quality of water. 1. Undissolved Solids 2. Phosphates & Nitrates 3. Dissolved Oxygen 4. Dissolved Carbon Dioxide 5. Heavy Metals
  • 5. Undissolved Solids Undissolved particles can make water look cloudy. Often these solids are due to the erosion of land by the river, but can also be due to untreated wastewater and industrial waste that enters the river. It not only makes the water look unpleasant, but it blocks sunlight, which means water plants can’t photosynthesize and add dissolved oxygen to the water, affecting the survival of fish and other organisms. Wastewater treatment plants usually remove all of the undissolved solids from wastewater, unless the city produces more waste than the wastewater treatment plant can fully process.
  • 6. Undissolved Solids To measure undissolved solids you pass of water from each sample through a piece of filter paper. Before filtering the water you measure the mass of the filter paper. After filtering, you allow the filter paper to dry and then measure the mass of the filter paper and undissolved solids combined. The mass in milligrams of undissolved solids per liter of water is equivalent to the concentration of undissolved solids in parts per million (ppm).
  • 7. Phosphates & Nitrates Phosphates and nitrates are nutrients that help plants grow. They are found in plant fertilizers as well as animal wastes. Phosphates have also been added to detergents and soaps to help clean things efficiently. Eutrophication is directly caused by phosphates and nitrates since they contain phosphorus and nitrogen that are essential nutrients to algae growth.
  • 8. Dissolved Oxygen Many organisms require oxygen to survive. The number and type of organisms living in the water is affected by the availability of dissolved oxygen. Most organisms require dissolved oxygen concentrations above 5.0 ppm. Without enough oxygen, fish and other organisms can’t survive.
  • 9. Measuring Dissolved Oxygen To measure dissolved oxygen, you add manganese sulfate and alkaline iodine azide to the samples, and stir the mixture. If oxygen is present, you expect a brownish-orange solid to form. Once the solid settles, you add sulfamic acid to the sample, the solid dissolves, and the water turns yellow. Finally, you add sodium thiosulfate one drop at a time until the sample just turns clear. The number of drops of sodium thiosulfate needed to turn the solution clear indicates the dissolved oxygen concentration.
  • 10. Dissolved Carbon Dioxide Carbon dioxide, CO2, is produced by animals as a waste product of cellular respiration. Plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. In a water ecosystem, low dissolved oxygen concentrations often occur at the same time as high carbon dioxide concentrations because the organisms using up the oxygen are also producing CO2. When the CO2 concentrations are high, fish and other organisms can have a hard time taking in oxygen.
  • 11. Measuring Dissolved Carbon Dioxide To test for dissolved carbon dioxide, you add 5 drops of the indicator phenolphthalein to the sample. If a pink colour forms and then quickly disappears, there is carbon dioxide present. Next, you add sodium hydroxide solution drop by drop until the sample turns light pink. The number of drops of sodium hydroxide solution required to change the colour to pink indicates the carbon dioxide concentration.
  • 12. Heavy Metals Elements like copper, lead, zinc, mercury, cadmium and nickel that can be present in products such as batteries, rubber tires, gasoline, paints, pipes, and thermometers. Many industrial or manufacturing processes result in these pollutants entering water systems. They are highly toxic to a many organisms.
  • 13. Measuring Heavy Metals Each heavy metal will have its own chemical test to determine the presence and amount of that element in the water.
  • 14. Other Water Pollutants 1. Acids ◦ With too much air pollution, acid rain forms and can affect water quality. 2. Pesticides ◦ Pesticides can be toxic, even in small doses. 3. Salts ◦ Salts such as sodium chloride (NaCl) or magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) come from many sources.
  • 15. Biological Indicators Biological Indicators are living things that can reveal the amount and effects of pollution. The health of aquatic organisms can determine water quality. Aquatic life such as fish, insects, and micro-organisms.
  • 16. Biological Indicators Some species cannot survive in polluted water, while others are able to tolerate polluted water. Identifying the organisms present in a sample of water can help to determine the relative quality of a body of water. Stonefly larvae, water penny beetle larvae and gilled snails are examples of aquatic species that are sensitive to poor water quality conditions, such as low dissolved oxygen concentrations. Larger populations of these species indicate higher water quality.