Other Voices l The Importance of Monitoring Water Quality Programs | Columnist


Water is vital to every aspect of our lives. Monitoring the water quality in our region helps protect, manage and maintain our aquifers and spring systems.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) has a dedicated team of scientists who collect water quality samples from groundwater and surface water bodies throughout the region.

Q: What is water quality and why is it important?

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A: Water quality is a description of the state of water.

Water quality can refer to the chemical, physical and biological conditions of water, including whether the water is suitable for a particular purpose, such as drinking, recreation or supporting wildlife.

Our water quality is important because it has a direct impact on people and the environment.

Q: Why do school districts monitor water quality?

A: The region’s water quality monitoring program, or WQMP, provides critical data for anyone making decisions within our region about protecting, managing, and restoring water resources.

Area scientists collect samples from surface water bodies such as lakes, nearshore estuaries, rivers, and groundwater systems such as springs and wells.

Q: What do school districts look for in water quality monitoring?

A: School districts assess water quality in a number of ways.

On site, scientists record and collect water temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration, pH, ion concentration in the water (specific conductance), and the amount of suspended matter in the water (turbidity).

More complex measurements of nutrients and brine metrics are measured in the laboratory.

Q: How often do school districts visit monitoring sites?

A: It depends on the type of water body or water body and the purpose of the monitoring project. School district staff take water samples more frequently (sometimes hourly) in streams or rivers because currents constantly change the conditions in the water.

Rapid changes in water quality are unusual for groundwater resources such as aquifers, so these locations may only be monitored once a year.

Q: What does the district do with the water quality data it collects?

A: The region uses this data to help make decisions about protecting, managing and restoring our region’s water resources.

The data collected supports research into ongoing issues such as saltwater intrusion, its impact on our region’s aquifers, and the assessment of minimum flows and levels in our springs and surface water bodies.

Q: How will the public obtain water quality data for the district?

A: The data collected by the district, including water quality data, can be accessed and downloaded from our Environmental Data Portal (EDP) WaterMatters.org/edp.

Catherine Wolden is the Water Quality Monitoring Program Manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. A native of Florida, she holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of South Florida and has held various positions in water quality monitoring programs in the region and throughout her 20+ year career.

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