Environmental concerns make water protection necessary

Published Tuesday, November 25, 2008

With the threat to the environment growing, it is becoming increasingly important to closely monitor our water.

AP biology students from Conway High School are taking part in an international outreach program to do just that. World Water Monitoring Day builds public awareness and encourages involvement in protecting the water resources of the world. With the help of testing kits, people around the globe can help researchers closely watch important factors that contribute to the health of the Earth's water. These parameters include pH, temperature, turbidity and dissolved oxygen levels. Scientists use this data to document change in environmental water resources that result form natural phenomena and human activities.

The dissolved oxygen test measures how many molecules of oxygen are in the water. Oxygen is vital for life and is needed for the various chemical reactions that ensure the functioning of a body of water. Higher concentration levels create stable environments and support a greater diversity of aquatic organisms. Low levels can impair the growth and reproduction of living organisms.

The temperature is also an essential factor in the balance of aquatic ecosystems. It's related to the average kinetic energy of atoms in a substance as they move. It affects the rate and the extent to which chemical reactions occur, such as photosynthesis.

Turbidity is the cloudiness of a fluid caused by particles. Pollution, algal booms and soil erosion can influence it. High turbidity can cause higher temperatures since the suspended particles absorb heat, and this can reduce the oxygen concentration.

A group of six students, including Lindsey McKee, Ashley Martins, Sydney Halderman, Tessa Cook, Marie Desrochers and Devika Mehta tested the water in the Bob Courtway Middle School pond. The pond was found to have an average pH of 9.3, which is basic for pond water. This could have harmful effects on the organisms living in the pond. There was an average of about 4.8 parts per million of dissolved oxygen in the water, which is a fair amount, but not an excellent number. The turbidity was 40 JTU, which is a higher value for a pond. The average water temperature was also average for this time of year.

All of these students submitted data from the tests from various bodies of water and entered results into a large database. Scientists from across the world will analyze the data and draw conclusions that will be published in a report showing a broad overview of the world's water. By monitoring water across the world, scientists and students alike will have a better understanding of how to best protect Earth's water resources.

(Lindsey McKee, Ashley Martins, Sydney Halderman, Tessa Cook and Marie Desrochers also contributed to this report. The authors are all students in Molly Walchuk's AP biology class at Conway High School East.)

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