Hydrology; Water; Sustainability; Environment; Ecology
KEVIN DYER (Marine Biology)
Year-long Analysis of the Water Quality of White Horn Brook
Sponsor: Thomas Boving (Geological Sciences)
Water is the foundation for all life on earth and is the most vital resource on this planet. Despite this, oceans and waterways all over the world are being polluted and exploited in ways detrimental to their fundamental hydrologic functions. For instance, excess nitrate levels can lead to eutrophication which gives rise to harmful algae blooms. Low pH can cause the breakdown of CaCO3 exoskeletons of organisms, such mollusks. High temperature variations are major stressors to living things and can cause organisms to go into shock or expend more energy to maintain homeostasis at the expense of other life processes. Over the last year, from February 2019 to February 2020, weekly water quality tests were conducted on the upstream and downstream portions of White Horn Brook along the University of Rhode Island campus in Kingston, RI. Each week, the water was tested for its pH, electroconductivity, nitrate, and temperature. Seasonal variations observed in the brook were expected, such as applications of road salt in the winter causing an increase in the water’s electroconductivity. What was not so easily explained, however, was the consistent difference in water quality from water entering the campus compared to the water exiting the campus. Throughout the year, pH, nitrate, and electroconductivity (EC) levels were significantly lower as the water left the campus versus when it entered. Upon further investigation of the brook’s upstream sources, it was determined that the origin of this water quality discrepancy was a pipe along Flagg Road that originates from Avedisian Hall. To keep Avedisian Hall’s basement from flooding, water from the nearby aquifer is continuously being pumped into this pipe which ultimately feeds into White Horn Brook where it mixes with water flowing in from the North Woods. Compared to the water present within the brook, this piped water had an elevated pH, nitrate, and electro conductive properties which fundamentally alters White Horn Brook’s water quality. However, the local spike in these water quality parameters is comparably short lived because by the time the brook exits the campus, the water quality improved. This could be because of attenuation of nitrate due to natural biological processes and/or dilution with clean water entering the brook downstream from Flagg Road, which would reduce both nitrate and EC values as well as changing the water’s pH.