2021 - Developing continuous sampling and drones as monitoring strategies of water flow, temperature and dissolved oxygen during low flow periods

Grant Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Robert Stevenson
Research Description: 
Low flow in rivers results from the lack of rainfall and groundwater discharge, that in New England, is most prevalent during August, September and October. Flow can be also reduced at the same time of year by human withdrawals, either directly from the river, or from adjacent aquifers exacerbating the low flow conditions. Low flow negatively impacts the health of rivers because of the loss of habitat, reduced dissolved oxygen (DO), and increased water temperatures, all contributing to stress or extirpation of the biota. Here we propose to monitor flow upstream and downstream of well fields in the Parker River (Essex County, MA) using equipment suitable for watershed association teams. In addition, we propose to profile water quality in the main stem using a YSI Pro-Digital Optical DO/Temperature/Conductivity sonde. The sonde technology will allow us to profile the river system spatially by mounting it on a “boat” drone. We can then remotely sample reaches of the river as well as ponds in the river system. Watershed associations traditionally use point sampling methods, but the approaches described here, based on advances in instrumentation, allow us to collect vastly more water quality data at reasonable costs. Our long-term goal is to forecast both river flow and impacts on river health by combining our field data with USGS streamflow records, ground water levels, rainfall data, well data and municipality water withdrawal data.