Trutta Environmental Solutions

Water Quality

Having clean water that supports aquatic life and numerous human uses is extremely important. We sample water quality in several ways. We can collect bottle samples for complete analysis in a testing laboratory and we can deploy spot samplers to document water quality at a specific location over time. The most common way we sample water quality is as part of our HDSS approach. A water quality sensor continuously collects data during our long surveys and the resulting data provides a unique view of water quality throughout the stream system (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Dr. Paul Ayers of the University of Tennessee and student testing continuous water quality sampling at the confluence of the New River and Clear Creek, TN. The plot of water conductivity shows a marked difference in conductivity coming from the different water sources.


Figure 2. A water quality example from Falling Water River, TN. The specific conductivity of the water increases downstream of the confluence with Pigeon Roost Creek. Upstream on Pigeon Roost Creek is the Cookeville water treatment facility. The red dots of low conductivity are the result of us pulling the kayaks over large log jams and the sensor being out of the water. Combining the water quality results with the HDSS video allows anomalies such as these to be easily understood.

We also see changes in water quality that are not recorded by the water quality sensor. Below, we see a dry swale entering the stream (Figure 3). The bottom of the stream is algae free at this location, but just downstream (Figure 4), there is a large bloom of green algae in the stream. This situation is caused by too many nutrients being washed into the stream at high flow and would be an excellent place for some Best Management Practices (BMPs) to be applied to decrease the nutrient runoff.

Figure 3. Dry swale on right side streambank entering an algae-free stream segment.

Figure 4. Just downstream of Figure 3. A bloom of filamentous algae is observed on the stream bottom.