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Water quality sensors

We have installed four sensors into the River Chess. Each sensor will continuously record selected water quality indicators at thirty-minute intervals. This data will be used by the River Chess Association and Chilterns Chalk Streams Project to help them understand the threats to the animals, plants and fish in the river that are caused by human activities in the river catchment

The River Chess is located in the South East of England with a catchment that contains a mix of urban and rural land uses. Each type of land use is associated with different activities that might impact on water quality.

Urban runoff

For example, urban areas contain hard surfaces that don’t let rainwater through. Water moving over the top of these hard surfaces can carry road grit and pollutants from vehicles (such as metals, oils and greases) into rivers.

A photograph illustrating road runoff into the River Chess during heavy rain.

Agricultural runoff

In more rural parts of a river catchment farming activities can result in water quality problems for rivers. For example, soil and fertiliser can wash from fields into rivers during heavy rainstorms. This is an expensive loss of resource for the farmer, and can be problematic for the health of the biota in a river.

A picture of sheep grazing next to arable fields in the River Chess valley. Credit for photograph to River Chess Association.

We hope that our sensors will enable us to identify which activities are having the greatest impact on water quality of the River Chess. With this evidence and data we can then contribute to ideas and plans for future management of the river. The data could help us to target the greatest opportunities for improvement in river health.

The data from our sensors is also available for school A level projects, STEM clubs and other educational purposes. You can read about the water quality measurements, develop and then test your own scientific hypotheses using our data.

Our sensors will record the following water quality indicators. Click on each indicator to find out why it is important to measure in a river.

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