Water monitoring

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Materials :
- water monitoring kits (pH, nitrates, phosphates, coliform bacteria, turbidity… ). Water monitoring kits are available at the following address : Earth Force, 1908 Mount Vernon Avenue, 2nd floor, Alexandria VA 22301 Phone : 703-519-6877 Fax : 703-299-9485 http://www.earthforce.org

Link with climate change

A healthy river has healthy species capable of coping with different situations. However, if the total coliform, nitrate, phosphate or pH levels are too high, the species will be more vulnerable to change.

Climate change can cause different impacts on waterways: sea level rise, increase in temperature, evaporation, increase or decrease flow, drought… Healthy waterways and their species will be more capable of dealing with these impacts than those who are not healthy.

Description of the activity

Go to a stream or river in the community. Collect the water sample in a sterile jar or container (approximately 1 liter), fill it completely and replace the cap. Test each sample as soon as possible.

Phosphates : nutrients needed for plant and animal growth. They are found in human and animal waste, industrial pollution and agricultural runoff.

- fill the test tube to the 10 mL line with water,
- add one Phosphorus TesTab (5422),
- cap and mix until the tablet is disintegrated,
- wait 5 minutes for the blue color to develop and compare the color with the color chart found in the kit.


Nitrates : nutrients needed by all aquatic plants and animals. The decomposition of dead plants and animals release nitrate into the water. Sewage and fertilizers are important sources of nitrate in the water.

- fill the test tube to the 5 mL line with water,
- add one Nitrate Wide Range CTA TesTab (3703),
- cap and mix until the tablet is disintegrated,
- wait 5 minutes for the red color to develop and compare the color with the color chart found in the kit.

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Coliform bacteria : fecal coliform bacteria are naturally present in the human digestive tract. They should not be found in well water or other sources of drinking water.

- pour the water sample into the large test tube containing a tablet until it is filled to the 10 mL line;
- replace the cap on the test tube and stand the test tube upright at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Wait 30 to 36 hours. Store the tube where the temperature will be fairly constant and between 21 to 27oC. Do not disturb, handle or shake the tube during the incubation period;
- compare the appearance of the tube to the color chart. Record the result as negative or positive;
- add 20 drops of household chlorine bleach and immediately recap. Let the tube stand for about 4 hours. Dispose of the closed tubes in the trash. Never re-use tubes after coliform bacteria testing.


pH : is a measurement of the acidic or basic quality of water. Most aquatic organisms are adapted to a specific pH level and may die if the pH of the water changes even slightly.

- fill the test tube to the 10 mL line with the water sample,
- add one pH Wide Range TesTab (6459),
- cap and mix until the tablet has disintegrated,
- compare the color of the sample to the pH color chart.

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