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WATERLINE - December, 2023

Advancements in technology simplify water quality monitoring

by In-Situ staff

Eli Kersh, of LakeTech, tries out the Aqua TROLL 700 Multiparameter Sonde from In-Situ.

Continuous water quality monitoring is our most effective tool to better understand how the changing climate impacts ecosystems, wildlife, industry, and human health. 

However, the challenges of continuous data collection have made it impractical for many researchers. Biofouling and routine maintenance such as battery replacement and calibration typically demand frequent trips to the field to clean and care for equipment.

Warm, nutrient-rich waters provide ideal conditions for the growth of organisms that can cover sensor faces and other parts of the equipment, interfering with the accuracy of the sensors and leading to data loss. And frequent travel to remote sites for cleaning and routine maintenance can be time consuming, costly, and hazardous.

So, while it’s understood that collection of high-density data on more parameters supports better trend analysis and faster response to threats such as harmful algal blooms and severe weather events, a substantive move in that direction has required advancements in technology, including easy-to-use telemetry, smart sensors with enhanced reliability, and instruments that monitor more parameters at once. This low-maintenance, easy-to-use equipment can provide access to actionable data in real time to help researchers use their time and resources more efficiently.

Putting theory into practice

The seven-port Aqua TROLL supports six interchangeable sensors and an antifouling wiper for data collection on more parameters with one instrument.

Eli Kersh, founder and president of LakeTech, a water resources monitoring and consulting company based in the Bay Area, says access to a shared ecosystem of instrumentation and software has not only simplified his work but also enables him to train many clients to do the monitoring work themselves.

“LakeTech has heavily leveraged In-Situ equipment,” says Kersh. “It’s cost-effective, it’s reliable, and it’s really easy to use. The telemetry devices they offer are second to none in the industry right now. And this has really allowed us to reach further into the market and provide solutions for people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access this data.”

Kersh adds that in his work, much of which is focused on harmful algal bloom monitoring and control, instant access to water quality data that he can pull into his own, proprietary software program has been a game-changer. “I feel like there’s been a real renaissance in the way we collect data. The ability to get that data in real time and continuously is really changing the way the industry is working,” he says.

Expanded multiparameter platform offers options

VuLink cellular telemetry is part of a shared ecosystem of products designed to eliminate the challenges of continuous water quality monitoring.

As a veteran user of In-Situ’s Aqua TROLL multiparameter platform, Kersh was pleased to see the recent introduction for the Aqua TROLL 700 and 800—seven-port additions to the five-port portfolio that offer the same functionality but accommodate six interlocking, interchangeable water quality sensors and an antifouling wiper.

Also eager to integrate In-Situ’s larger multiparameter platform into his continuous monitoring project is Sam Struthers, field coordinator and data manager for the ROSSyndicate Lab at Colorado State University. Struthers oversees continuous water quality data collection at 10 monitoring installations along Colorado’s Cache La Poudre River. He and his team recently replaced some of their Aqua TROLL 500s with Aqua TROLL 700s to collect data on FDOM and chlorophyll a in addition to the “big five”: DO, pH, turbidity, conductivity and temperature. Data is collected in 15-minute increments to give a more complete picture of trends over time and capture the effects of events when they occur.

“Cities that rely on the Poudre River as a drinking water source are keenly interested in these parameters and what they can tell us about the long- and short-term effects of wildfires, algal blooms, and other threats to water quality,” says Struthers. “It’s extremely helpful to be able to collect all of this data on one instrument and transmit it back to our office using VuLink telemetry.”

Ideal for both spot checking and remote monitoring, the Aqua TROLL 500, 600, 700 and 800 are compatible with all software, accessories and communication devices in In-Situ’s shared ecosystem of products. Connect them to VuLink telemetry and deploy in a pipe or In-Situ’s Rugged Buoy for remote monitoring, or to a Wireless TROLL Com for communication with a Bluetooth-enabled mobile device using the free VuSitu mobile app. Available in vented and non-vented options, Aqua TROLLs feature an LCD screen with a convenient menu for accessing calibration assistants, viewing live readings and creating reports.

For customers looking for added data security, the Aqua TROLL 600 and 800 also contain an internal battery with internal logging capabilities and a Micro SD Card for backup data storage. Brock Houston, Application Development Manager for In-Situ, appreciates these features for the security they provide those monitoring in remote locations. “If something happens to your telemetry station and you lose data transmission,” he says, “your Aqua TROLL 800 will continue collecting data and storing it.”

Essential antifouling technology comes standard

Houston, an expert in coastal water monitoring who lives on the Florida coast, was heavily involved with the rigorous testing process for the Aqua TROLL 700 and 800. And coastal Florida provided the perfect environment to test the Aqua TROLL’s active and passive antifouling technologies against aggressive biofouling. The instruments were installed in a well vertically mounted on a pier for months to determine how long they could resist coastal biofouling without cleaning or maintenance.

“I was particularly excited to see how well the antifouling technology prevented growth on the instrument and sensor faces,” says Houston of the test results, “That’s a huge issue in any environment, but particularly in the coastal environment.”

A new era for water quality monitoring

Antifouling features, telemetry, and software, in addition to smart-sensor technology, solve many of the challenges that complicate continuous data collection over long-term deployments. Easier access to decision-quality data supports environmental protection and restoration efforts, development of early warning systems for natural disasters, and timely response to events as they occur—all essential in a time of unprecedented environmental change.

To learn more, visit in-situ.com.