Patty's Watershed Blog Page

Water Quality Indicators
May 30, 2015

Last week in my class we read about some different water quality indicators we didn’t previously know about and answered questions about what we read. We learned how temperature was important to the health of the water, that how murky water is is called turbidity, and about bacteria called ‘fecal coliform’.

Temperature is actually a very important water quality because extreme temperature changes in the water is unhealthy. Photosynthesis increases at higher temperatures, so more plants grow at higher water temperatures. Photosynthesis also adds dissolved oxygen (DO) to the water which is good. But plant growth can increase too much and the plants will eventually die, then the decomposing bacteria from the dead plants will use up the DO. This means less oxygen for fish and other aquatic animals, which leads to them dying too. Temperature is also important to which type of animal lives in the water, some fish need cooler water like trout, and others prefer warmer water like carp. When the temperature of the water increases the cool-water animals will leave or die out, same with the warm-water animals when the temperature decreases. Temperatures that are too high or low for water animals can make them more likely to get sick and more hard to react to water pollution, though a few types can survive in extreme temperatures. You can test temperature by taking the temperature of a lake or river at it’s source, then move to another point in the river or lake and take the temperature again. If the difference between the temperatures is big (10F or bigger) then there is a problem. A change in the natural temperature of the water caused by humans is called thermal pollution, which can lead to all of the things listed above and can be caused by sewage leakage or discharge.

Turbidity, as I said, is how clear the water is; the murkier the water, the more turbidity. Not as many animals can live in turbid water because less sunlight can get through the water and the floating particles absorb sunlight. This causes the temperature of the water to rise and the oxygen levels to drop (warm water holds less air), so animals who need more oxygen or prefer cold water will be gone, limiting the variety of animals in the body of water. Turbid water is caused by; soil erosion, town/city runoff, and/or bottom sediment disturbances. Bottom sediment disturbances are caused by boats, and/or too many bottom feeders.

Fecal coliform is bacteria which is found in feces of warm-blooded animals like humans or cows. The more fecal coliform there is, the less healthy the body of water. If there’s too much fecal coliform in a body of water then there may be harmful microbes that can cause disease. It doesn’t take many of these microbes to get you sick; they can enter your body through your nose, ears, skin, mouth, or cuts. Fecal coliform is mostly caused by runoff and/or sewage discharge, so it is most likely found closer to agricultural or industrial land.

Humans are the sources of many of these disturbances (though not all), like thermal pollution, most fecal coliform, and some turbidity. These occurrences throw the ecosystem out of balance, especially thermal pollution.

#Bacteria #WaterQualityIndicators #WaterQuality #Temperature #Turbidity
Water Filtering Experiment

Our class did a science experiment about filtering ‘contaminated’ water. Earlier we made a blog about the process of the experiment in groups so you should go look at those blogs too. We started by reading a book about filtering water and talking about a simple way to filter with three different materials. We wrote down what materials we predicted would work well and which ones wouldn’t. My predictions were that they would work best together and when independent they would not work well. My predictions were that the paper coffee filter would get soaked and eventually rip under all the water, and that it should only be used once if it does work. I thought that using sand and gravel to filter wouldn’t work that well because little pieces of sand and/or gravel would get mixed in with the water. My thoughts with the screen were that it would be fast and sturdy but would not catch as much water as the other two so it wouldn’t filter as much. My actual results showed that these issues with each were not very big problems. The sand and gravel turned out to be the only ones that had no particles in the water after filtering and was actually the fastest of the three, but that was because the other two got clogged with the particles, making the water come out slowly. The screen filtered water had slightly more particles than the paper filtered water, but overall those two were very similar; both getting clogged, taking around 5 minutes to filter, and the filtered water looking about the same. The paper filter did not rip and none of the sand got mixed in with the water. Our experiment had interesting results and I still stand by that they would work best together.

#WaterFilters #Filtering #ScienceExperiment

Inquiry Procedure 

Last week we set up our small experiment. First we asked a question, how does fertilizer concentration affect the growth of duckweed? Then we made predictions and set it up, recording our procedure and materials.

My prediction is that the more fertilizer the more the duckweed will grow because duckweed grows fast and it may be like algae where fertilizer makes it grow a lot and faster. We have yet to confirm any of our predictions, but we’re gathering information.

The materials you need if you want to do this is four 28 ml test tubes, distilled water, duckweed plants, and liquid fertilizer. If you want to do this test follow these steps.

Step 1. Add 20 ml of distilled water into each 28 ml test tube.

Step 2. Add four duckweed plants into each test tube and label the number of fronds.

Step 3. Add 0.28 ml of liquid fertilizer into each test tube.

Every day count the number of fronds and mark it down to show the progress. This is only my groups version of the experiment, look at my classmates blogs to see the different variables we did.


This week we’re learning and reading things about phosphorus. Phosphorus is a chemical element found commonly in fertilizers, the human body, and is used to make several other things like fireworks. We read an article from the Addison Independent on where phosphorus in the Otter Creek watershed comes from, with some details about other lakes. 49 percent of the phosphorus is from agriculture, 17.1 percent from forest lands, 16.4 percent from stream erosion, 14.4 percent from developed lands, and 3.2 percent is from wastewater treatment facilities.

Research was done about this and the Vermont Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Implementation Plan requires a 5 percent reduction in phosphorus from forest lands in most Vermont watersheds, including Otter Creek. In the Missisquoi Bay it calls for 10 times that, due to the water quality concerns in that area.

In other sectors in the Otter Creek watershed, agricultural production areas calls for an 80 percent reduction, 47 percent reduction from fields and pastures, a 40 percent reduction in streambank erosion, and a 15 percent reduction from developed land.

This much phosphorus could be bad because too much phosphorus can cause algae overgrowth. We don’t want Otter Creek to end up like Missisquoi Bay. If you ever see any pictures of Missisquoi Bay or go there, the water is green from cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) and is too polluted to swim in.

#Phophorus #OtterCreek #Watersheds

Oxygen Levels Test 

Last week we did an experiment to determine the oxygen level in two different water samples. Sample A was water from Cedar Lake and Sample B was water from our fish tank full of guppies. They looked similar in clarity and we used the same chemicals in each of them. First we added manganous sulfate, which created white clouding called floc in both. Second we put in iodide-azide which made Sample A slowly turn slightly chunky, pulpy orange color. With Sample B it changed colors faster, turning to a dirty yellow color with orange/white clumping on the bottom. Then we waited for the floc to settle and after a few minutes added sulfamic acid which dissolved the floc. Sample A turned a dark reddish-brown color before settling on a lighter, more clear, pulpy orange. Sample B turned rusty orange, then to a clearish light orange. Last we took a small sample of Sample A and used sodium thisulfate to make it clear, it took 17 drops, when we did the same thing with Sample B it took 14-15 drops. This means that Sample A has 3 mg/L and Sample B has 2 mg/L. This means that each body of water can only have 2 different species of fish, which isn’t very good because the Vermont ideal is 7 mg/L and the natural range is 5-12 mg/L.

Sources of Pollution
Last week we had a long weekend, during that weekend we observed how runoff flows and different pollution around us. Some of the runoff around my house flows into our pond, when the pond gets too high there's a tube that the water pours into so it can't flood. Most water would absorb into the ground but some formed puddles on our dirt driveway, which eventually soaked in or created mud puddles. I also learned that burning wood in your fireplace can be air pollution, especially when it's wet. Wet wood causes more smoke which can be hazardous to your health. If you burn wood you want to make sure it's dry, cut wood before winter comes so it's dried out and not wet/still fresh. Also dry wood bruns hotter so that's less wood wasted. Things like lawnmowers/snowblowers and weedwackers can emit exhaust and chemicals into the air, which of course is bad. There's many other everyday things that cause pollution, like leaf blowers, but I can't name them all. My classmates blogs most likely have other sources of pollution shown, you should go read them!


September/October Land Interactions
This year during science we’ve been learning and doing experiments about our big question; How does water quality affect the ecology of a community? We started by making a lake score card about our ideals for a normal lake/river, then we visited Cedar Lake and scored it. Cedar Lake has a lot of silt growing on the bottom. Another time we looked at five different cups of liquids, talking about which one a body of water should look like, and what types of land they would be in; Agricultural, industrial, commercial, or residential.

Agricultural land is farming land, used for keeping animals or tending to plants and food. The chemicals used to keep away bugs and help plants grow get carried away by runoff and pollute water, land, and kill animals.

Industrial land may easily be considered the worst. Industrial land is big factories and businesses that normally have smokestacks and ships coming to and from them. Lots of factories dump things in the water, like oil. This was a big factor in the Cuyahoga River fire that happened in 1969, the river was so polluted that it caught fire and spread over it. The smoke that comes from the smokestacks slowly dissipates and falls down, polluting the land and water.

Commercial land is usually small businesses and shops. Sometimes people drain-dump dirty water from restaurants, though it’s illegal in most states. There’s occasionally litter around, such as plastic which can be terrible for the environment.

Residential land is homes and where people live, like a neighborhood. People case pollution in these parts from not picking up after parties, washing cars with soap that runs off into lakes, and even leaf blowers can cause pollution.

Just this week we looked more into human uses that affect water negatively. We looked at two pictures, one residential and the other commercial, and we identified human uses that can be bad for land and water health. We then sorted those uses into two categories; Point Source and Non-Point Source pollution.

Point Source pollution is when you see pollution and you can point to someone/ something saying ‘that’s what’s causing this pollution’. When you see oil leaking from a car that’s Point Source because you can see that the car is the source of the oil.

Non-Point Source pollution is the presence of pollution, but you can’t see what caused it. Like when you see litter sitting on the sidewalk, but you can’t tell who dropped it there, that’s Non-Point Source pollution.

This is just skimming what we’ve learned so far in the past month. Our class blog posts go further into detail about our experiments and what else we’ve learned.

#Patty #Land and Water Interactions #Point Source #Non-Point Source #Pollution #HumanUses #LandTypes #CedarLake

1 comment:

  1. Sounds pretty cool. I've been wondering if erosion on a trail in the woods is considered point source. Even though some would say "it's just dirt, so it's not really pollution", soil washing into streams, ponds and lakes can be a real problem.

    So if trail is eroding, is that point source even if it may be happening over a wide spread area, or is it non-point source?

    We did a bunch of work on our hiking trails a Little Hogback Community Forest in Monkton to help stop erosion. IT seems to be protecting the trail from damage, as well as helping protect water quality.