Friday, May 07, 2010

Water quality monitoring (WQM) project in Japan

Here is another secondary school working on WQM but this is the first one I have seen operating in Japan! WQM aside, it seems our schools are going around the world quite a bit. Environmental projects seem to be a common theme for such overseas trips. And WQM is usually in the forefront of such environmental projects.

I have a challenge here which I hope you may be able to advise.  I’ll be bringing a group of students to Japan Kurihara in early June with an objective of doing an investigative project on environmental issue.  After much brainstorming, the students would like to do a water quality project.  Brings to mind of your course. 

With our initiation in the coming trip, we hope our sister school in Japan will be able to follow up with periodic collection of data and hopefully make meaning to the data.  We are not sure at this point what kind of data to collect.  We can bring along dataloggers and sensors like pH, temperature and dissolved oxygen.  But we are uncertain if our sister school will have the equipment to continue collecting such data.  Please advise what meaningful data that we can collect and yet not be so imposing on our Japan’s school.

Even without dataloggers, meaningful data can still be collected with regular spot sampling.

Here are some suggestions.

1. pH
Get some universal pH paper which shows reasonable resolution i.e. instead of simply acidic or alkaline, the universal pH paper will measure pH from 1 to 14 based on a colour scale.

2. turbidity
Turbidity in water can be measured using a Secchi disk. In fact, you can get the students to make their own disks. Basically, it is lowered into the water till the disk can no longer be seen. This depth is then recorded.

3. temperature
Easily measured using thermometers though try to get the non-mercury types instead of mercury ones which may break and pollute the water.

4. Settleable solids
This test measures the amount of settleable solids in the water. Strictly speaking, you need to get an Imhoff Cone for the job but I suppose any measuring cylinder will do if the budget is tight.

5. River flowrate
A quick and dirty method is to float an orange downstream within a predetermined distance. Time it and calculate the speed. Better still, estimate the cross-sectional area of the stream and multiply this by the speed to get water flowrate. Besides science, this also tests the math ability of the students.

Of course, if your sister school has the budget, they can procure reasonably priced portable pH meters and conductivity meters (~ S$100 for a low-end one). These will give more precise readings and may be economical over the long term. Digital DO meter tends to be pricier so get one only if they have the budget.

There are also relatively low priced water tests involving chemicals e.g. DO, hardness but depending on the students' ability and the school's budget, these may or may not be suitable.

Good luck!

No comments: