Thursday, May 21, 2009

Water Quality Modelling: "Ngee Ann Stream"

What is the next step beyond water quality monitoring? Principal component analysis? Naw, too far (for now). Modelling sounds just about right. Starting with a simple one-dimensional steady state model such as Qual2kw seems like a no-brainer. ("Simple" is strictly relative as any newbie to the model will swear that the software looks like Egyptian hieroglyphics.) What's more - the modelling software is FREE! (You may download it here, together with many other cool models - the software type, not the human type.)

I have done modelling of dioxins transport in rivers many years back but the model has always been hampered by a lack of real world data for calibration and verification. Therefore, this time round, I am going to generate my own real world data (read "field work") to fit into Qual2kw. What better place to start than my favourite local waterway in the "backyard" of my office. Sorry, can't find the name for it so I have always named it "Ngee Ann Stream" in honour of its namesake institution nearby. (If the stream becomes well known for my work on it, NP should really pay me a royalty.) All right, it is actually a tributary of Sungei Ulu Pandan and despite being nameless, it is a wonderful piece of semi-natural habitat.

Figures (L-R, T-B): A mix of natural and man-made habitat such as this culvert connecting open country and secondary forest;
headwater of Ngee Ann Stream;
throwing a wrench into the model - an inflow to account for;
surveying the downstream canal;
alas, development is coming by starting with land clearing - what is the fate of this natural habitat?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Singapore International Water Festival (SIWF) (20-21 June 2009): Environmental Quiz Challenge

This job is quite unlike any water quality monitoring I have done. Heck, it isn't even water quality work (despite the "Water" in the title). I had the fortune to be tasked with organising the event "Environmental Quiz Challenge" under the umbrella of SIWF. SIWF is an appetiser of sorts before the main event, Singapore International Water Convention which stretches for 1 week.

Quite simply, the Quiz is a competition for secondary schools to fight it out for the top 3 prizes. But what is really NEW and DIFFERENT is the venue - this event (and the Festival) is held at the Marina Barrage. What a way to launch our nation's latest (and very expensive) water infrastructure!

You probably can gather by now - this event is organised by PUB (no surprise) and Singapore Polytechnic (SP).

If you are interested to know more the Festival, check out this page.

If the Environmental Quiz Challenge is your target, check here.

Figures (L-R, T-B): Inspirational vista of the main courtyard; the CBD (and IR) as viewed from the Barrage; the actual barrage itself; Courtyard Room - where the Quiz is held

Water quality monitoring with Team Seagrass at Pulau Semakau (1 May 2009)

Here is a common trick our minds play on us - "what am I doing waking up at 5:30a.m. on Labour Day when I should be catching up on my sleep after a hectic work week?" The answer that I always use to counter this trick is, "I have a job to do and I can't let others down." How motivational... and it works all the time.

The "job" in this case is to do some water quality monitoring in the seagrass areas on Pulau Semakau. Yup, this island is famous for being presently our nation's only landfill. What is less well known is the presence of a lovable stretch of mangroves with adjacent beds of seagrasses.

I found myself bringing three of my students on a collaborative trip with Team Seagrass and Nparks. While the Team took care of seagrass monitoring, we tackled the water quality. Seagrasses are constantly exposed to seawater, hence water quality is of paramount importance to their well-being. We have the honour of getting the opportunity to check out the water quality in this seagrass area and hopefully derive useful correlations between seagrass health and water quality at the end of this study.

The weather turned out great (meaning skin sizzling hot) for outdoors photography but I am afraid I can't post any pictures of the fantastic marine life there as my intertidal knowledge is truly shaky (I certainly can't tell 1 nudibranch from another).

Overall, the trip was a success as we managed to get on-site readings of all 3 sites on the island. We also brought water samples back to the mainland for further laboratory analyses. Many thanks to Ria, Siti, Shu Fen, Wei Ling and others for making this trip a smooth one. Check out the Team Seagrass blog for their version of the trip.

Figures (L-R, T-B): Covered landfill - under the grass and soil is solid waste; proudly displaying the Team Seagrass banner to tell outsiders that serious scientific study was being carried out; monitoring the water quality during low tide; performing water quality analysis at our mobile chemistry lab.