Water Quality Monitoring Program

Your Questions Answered

February 2022

Q: What is water quality and why is it important?
A: Water quality is a description of the condition of water. Water quality can refer to the chemical, physical and biological condition of water, including the suitability of the water to be used for a specific purpose like drinking, recreation or support of wildlife. The quality of our water is important because it has a direct impact on people and the environment.

Q: Why does the District monitor water quality?
A: The District’s Water Quality Monitoring Program or WQMP provides critical data to anyone making decisions about protecting, managing, and restoring water resources within our region. District scientists collect samples from surface water bodies like lakes, nearshore estuarine areas, rivers, and from groundwater systems like springs and wells.

Q: What does the District look for in water quality monitoring?
A: The District assesses the quality of water in several ways. In the field, scientists record and collect water temperature, dissolved oxygen concentrations, pH, the concentration of ions in the water (specific conductance), and the amount of material suspended in the water (turbidity). More complex measurements for nutrients and saltwater indicators are measured in a laboratory.

Q: How often does the District visit the monitoring locations?
A: It depends on the type of water or waterbody and the purpose of the monitoring project. District staff take water samples more frequently (sometimes hourly) in streams or rivers since the flow is constantly changing the conditions in the water. For groundwater resources, like an aquifer, it’s unusual to see rapid changes in water quality so those locations may only be monitored once a year.

Q: What does the District do with the collected water quality data?
A: The District uses the data to help make decisions about protecting, managing and restoring water resources within our region. Data collected support studies of ongoing issues like saltwater intrusion, impacts to aquifers in our region, and evaluation of minimum flows and levels for our springs and surface waterbodies.

Q: How can the public access the District’s water quality data?
A: Data collected by the District, including water quality data, can be accessed and downloaded from our Environmental Data Portal (EDP) at WaterMatters.org/edp.

Catherine Wolden
Water Quality Monitoring Program Manager