As late summer brings erratic thunderstorms and winds to Chicago, the Current team continues its work to decipher the weather’s impact on Chicago River water quality via H2NOW. With its real-time water-quality assessments, H2NOW helps visitors make informed decisions about Chicago River plans – no matter what the weather is doing. Rainfall, for example, more than doubled from June to July in the Chicagoland area. Read on to learn more about what Current has been doing to inform the public about the river’s daily conditions and check the latest reports at H2NOW Chicago.
Current celebrated the launch of the 2022 season of H2NOW on June 29 with many of our collaborators and partners at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. Since the celebration party, all three H2NOW probes (in Lincoln Park, Bridgeport, and the Loop) have consistently sent water quality data to the H2NOW Chicago for the public to use. Current’s H2NOW team has continued to gather water samples up to four days a week for laboratory analysis to determine the fecal coliform levels in the water and confirm the probes’ estimations. This vigorous hands-on sampling protocol ensures that H2NOW is sharing reliable water-quality estimations with the public.
Recently, the team took a boat out to the three H2NOW probe sites with the help of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s monitoring crew. The primary purpose of the boat trip was to perform regular maintenance and cleaning of the probes to prevent pollutants from affecting the sensor data. On the outside of each probe is copper wire gauze that keeps debris from entering the sensor area and prevents animals from nesting inside the probe. The probes are stationed in a large metal tube for protective reasons, and they were slimy when taken out of the tube. The team cleaned off the probes using clean paper towels and distilled water and then replaced the copper wire gauze. After the probes were reinstalled, the data flow quickly began again with no issues.
Another planned purpose of the team’s boat expedition was to run mid-season tests on the probes to ensure they were performing properly. The team ran consistency tests before each probe’s installation earlier this year when all three probes were placed in the same bucket of water to determine whether they were emitting consistent data across all data outputs including tryptophan-like fluorescence (TLF), turbidity, temperature, colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and conductivity.
Unfortunately, due to technical malfunctions, the team was unable to run any analytical evaluation on the probes. Thus is the nature of field work – sometimes plans change. The team will be out on the river again soon with extra laptops, new wires, external power sources, and system updates to ensure the collection of data for consistency tests. Until then, check out the real time water-quality data in the Chicago River at https://www.h2nowchicago.org. Also, there will soon be signage with a QR code along the Riverwalk!