Since 1999, the National Park Service has conducted long-term ecological monitoring designed to identify and monitor conditions of their highest priority natural resources. The Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network is one of 32 networks formed to implement this integrated monitoring program which is tailored to specific needs of parks located in similar environmental settings. Due to its importance as a natural resource and as an important element of visitor experience, water-quality was selected as one of 12 core NPS natural resource inventories for which baseline data were collected system-wide.
Continuous water-quality data (i.e., temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen concentration [DO], turbidity) at large river index sites was identified as a high priority for Vital Signs Monitoring due to: 1) the importance of river ecosystems as focal natural resources among ERMN parks and 2) existing long-term water-quality monitoring programs.
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NPS, Eastern River and Mountains Network
The quality of water fundamentally determines which plant and animal species can live in aquatic ecosystems like streams, lakes, and rivers. It also determines if humans can use water for drinking, swimming, and other activities. Because the quality of river water typically changes on a seasonal, daily, and hourly basis, it was imperative to employ a continuous water-quality monitoring system in ERMN rivers with the primary objectives being:
Document the status and trends of selected water-quality parameters (DO, pH, specific conductance, water temperature, and turbidity) at index sites on two of the network’s largest rivers (Delaware River and New River).
Describe seasonal and annual patterns of parameters listed in objective 1.
Document, where appropriate, whether applicable (e.g., state, federal, and/or special protection) water-quality standards are met for parameters listed in objective 1.
Communicating this knowledge to park staff and cooperators will improve their ability to make informed management decisions and help to maintain or improve water-quality in these rivers.
A Manta data sonde from Eureka was continuously deployed in-situ on the Lordville Road bridge near the main flow of the Delaware River. Water quality measurements are recorded every 15 minutes.
The sonde is suspended from the top of the bridge approximately 0.5 m above the riverbed, inside a 10 cm (4”) diameter deployment pipe by nylon cord and a communication cable. The deployment pipe was attached to the concrete bridge pier just below the 45-degree taper to the downstream point of the pier, ensuring a representative flow of water past the sonde while protecting it from debris flowing downstream.
The bottom 1.5 m (5 ft.) of the pipe (i.e., from the riverbed up) was perforated schedule-80 PVC pipe whereas the remainder of the pipe was galvanized steel.
The installation was equipped with satellite telemetry capability so that ERMN staff and other interested stakeholders could remotely monitor the condition of the sensors and provisional water quality data.
A primary goal of the ERMN river water quality and quantity monitoring protocol is to help maintain or improve the condition of rivers that flow through ERMN parks. As the program progresses and is refined, findings are used to help prioritize and guide activities within ERMN parks. By consistently gathering data, officials can maintain high quality water where it exists and improve water quality where necessary .