Surface water quality is important to maintain a healthy habitat for many aquatic organisms, wildlife, and humans. Water quality can provide insights into overall system productivity, can shift species abundances and distributions, and alter nutrient cycles. Water quality parameters such as pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature are good measurements that provide an overview of water quality. Biological contamination from Escherichia coli is a threat to water quality in Southern Plains Network (SOPN) parks. Sources include treated effluent, septic systems, and livestock operations. E. coli can be further exacerbated by a decrease in water quantity, which can concentrate pollutants. Water quality monitoring is required to ensure visitor health and safety in SOPN parks, to comply with relevant environmental legislation and NPS mandates, and to evaluate potential biochemical stressors in SOPN water bodies.
Water quality is a critical measure of the chemical and biological properties of aquatic systems. Aquatic ecosystems depend on the maintenance of particular water quality conditions in order to sustain life-supporting biochemical processes in plant and animal communities. Aquatic ecosystems are influenced by inputs of metals, nutrients, toxins, soil erosion, fire ash, sewage effluent, and biomass. Surface water quality measures consist measuring core water quality parameters, primary nutrients, biological condition and pollutant metals. A protocol is currently under development with the Sonoran Desert Network to develop surface water quantity, surface water quality, and ground water quantity monitoring protocols.
Network Park Units Where Monitoring Occurs
Surface water quality monitoring is done in six parks within the Southern Plains Network. These parks are listed below.
- Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
- Chickasaw National Recreation Area
- Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park
- Pecos National Historic Park
- Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
- Washita Battlefield National Historic Site