An urban observatory for quantifying phosphorus and suspended solid loads in combined natural and stormwater conveyances


Water quality in urban streams and stormwater systems is highly dynamic, both spatially and temporally, and can change drastically during storm events. Infrequent grab samples commonly collected for estimating pollutant loadings are insufficient to characterize water quality in many urban water systems. In situ water quality measurements are being used as surrogates for continuous pollutant load estimates; however, relatively few studies have tested the validity of surrogate indicators in urban stormwater conveyances. In this paper, we describe an observatory aimed at demonstrating the infrastructure required for surrogate monitoring in urban water systems and for capturing the dynamic behavior of stormwater-driven pollutant loads. We describe the instrumentation of multiple, autonomous water quality and quantity monitoring sites within an urban observatory. We also describe smart and adaptive sampling procedures implemented to improve data collection for developing surrogate relationships and for capturing the temporal and spatial variability of pollutant loading events in urban watersheds. Results show that the observatory is able to capture short-duration storm events within multiple catchments and, through inter-site communication, sampling efforts can be synchronized across multiple monitoring sites.

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This work was supported by funding from the Utah Water Research Laboratory and from the United States National Science Foundation grant 1208732. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Anthony A. Melcher.

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Melcher, A.A., Horsburgh, J.S. An urban observatory for quantifying phosphorus and suspended solid loads in combined natural and stormwater conveyances. Environ Monit Assess 189, 285 (2017).

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  • Stormwater
  • Monitoring
  • Water quality
  • Sensors