Sep 20, 2019

Mobile Water Quality Sensor Surveys Mississippi River

The water quality sensor is attached to a steamboat and will collect data on the Mississippi River

The water quality sensor is attached to a steamboat and will collect data on the Mississippi River
The water quality sensor is attached to a steamboat and will collect data on the Mississippi River

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, and the American Queen Steamboat Co. collaborated to attach a data-gathering sensor to the American Queen steamboat. The sensor will travel with the boat along the Mississippi River, tracking water quality along its length, according to The Pioneer Press.

The new sensor was unveiled Sept. 17 in Memphis by representatives from USGS, USACE, local mayors and the operators of the vessel. It is the first private vessel to carry a sensor designed to collect data that will help preserve ecosystems, according to The Pioneer Press.

Currently, 3,700 sensors are in fixed locations throughout the Mississippi River, officials say the new water quality sensor on the American Queen will help provide a larger picture of water quality throughout the Mississippi River as the boat travels from Minnesota to Louisiana.

“No one wants to hunt, fish, paddle or cruise in or near water full of algae due to nutrient surge,” said Marco McCledon, mayor of West Memphis, Ark. “We need to know what’s in our water to keep it clean.

The new water quality sensor is mounted on the stern of the steamboat and will measure water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and nitrate levels, as well as GPS information, according to the Iowa Public Radio. The measurements will be taken in real-time every five minutes and uploaded online every 15 minutes.

“What we’re doing here is increasing the speed of delivery of the information that allows people to describe what’s going on in the watershed, get a healthy source of drinking water as well as water that’s used for industrial purposes, and also to get the controls on the nutrient loads,” USGS Director James Reilly said, reported the Iowa Public Radio.

The water quality sensor will also collect information regarding nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that enters the river from farms and industrial pollution, among other sources. Additionally, a kiosk installed on the steamboat will educate tourists about the value of the project and how the data will enhance understanding of Mississippi River water quality, according to The Pioneer Press.

“We know we are contributing to the nutrient load the cities south of us have to deal with and it creates costs for their manufacturing, tourism and drinking water economies. We as mayors along the nation’s most important waterway see nutrient loading as the greatest threat to our water security,” said Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch. “In order to manage this threat we must be able to measure it. Without measurement we don’t make any progress.”

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