Water Quality Monitoring
Since 1996, the Initiative has been monitoring the quality of the water in the St. Joseph River and its tributaries through weekly grab sampling at locations across the watershed during the recreational season, April through October.
Water sampling measurements are done in the field with a Hydrolab sondeAn instrument that is lowered into the water to transmit information relating to the conditions encountered.. We measure water temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO)The amount of oxygen dissolved in water. Oxygen dissolves into the water from the atmosphere until the water is saturated., conductanceA measure of the ability of an object to transmit electricity., pHA measure of the relative acidity or alkalinity of water., and turbidityThe presence of sediment in water, making it unclear, murky or opaque. Turbid water is cloudier.. The air temperature and cloud cover are also recorded. We do not measure stream flow, but we do take a measurement of the water level from the bridge, which gives us a general idea of stream depth above or below the average at each site.
In addition to field measurements, samples are collected from each site and taken to the certified laboratory of the Fort Wayne Three Rivers Water Filtration Plant, where they are analyzed for the pesticides atrazine, alachlor, and metolochlor. A second set of samples are analyzed for E. coli.
Samples are delivered to the EPA-certified laboratory of the Fort Wayne Wastewater Treatment Plant, where they are analyzed for total phosphorus.
Nitrate analysis is carried out by A&L Laboratories in Fort Wayne.
Water quality monitoring database
An electronic database of the water quality monitoring results is maintained by the Initiative at its offices. The database dates back to 1996 when we first began our water monitoring activities. Information from the database is available to the public via this website (see Online Database).
Annual water quality reports for the St. Joseph River watershed, based on the Initiative’s water quality monitoring information, are available in PDF format.
Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program
In 2004, the St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative began an effort in water quality monitoring geared to watershed citizens. The goal of the Hoosier Riverwatch program is to train volunteers to evaluate small stream segments with habitat assessment, chemical and biological monitoring. The information gathered by the volunteers can be entered into the Hoosier Riverwatch database, which is available to the public though the Hoosier Riverwatch web site.
Habitat assessment includes stream channel, riparian zone, substrate, fish cover, depth and velocity, and riffles and runs. An evaluation known as the Citizens Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (CQHEI) can be completed through the Hoosier Riverwatch monitoring method. Chemical monitoring includes pH, dissolved oxygen, total oxygen demand (BOD5)A measure of the amount of oxygen used by aerobic (oxygen-consuming) bacteria as they break down organic wastes over five days., water temperature and temperature change, orthophosphate, nitratesNitrates are an essential nutrient for plant growth. They are a main ingredient in fertilizers and can lead to increased aquatic plant growth., E. coliA bacterium of the intestines of warm-blooded organisms, including humans, that is used as an indicator of water pollution for disease producing organisms., and turbidity. Biological monitoring includes benthic macroinvertebrateAnimals that are big enough (macro) to be seen with the naked eye, lack backbones (invertebrate) and live at least part of their lives in or on the bottom (benthos) of a body of water. diversity and analysis. This monitoring helps to identify the general health of the particular stream segment monitored.
If you are interested in being trained to monitor streams or tributaries to the St. Joseph River, contact the St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative at (260) 484-5848 x3 to sign up for a training class. Training classes are held 2-3 times over the summer.