Urban Road Salt Monitoring

Erin and I have been “citizen volunteer monitoring” the conductivity of streams in and around Madison for the past year. It has been an extremely interesting look into how the salinity levels in streams in the area vary from month-to-month. The study which is being conducted by the WDNR and UW-Extension encourages citizen monitors to measure conductivity levels in streams - especially during the months of December through March when snow events often result in over-salting of roads and sidewalks. If there is “an event”, typically a heavy snowfall or runoff day, we will get a message from the coordinator asking us to pop out to our sites and take a quick sample. Here are a few pictures of us in action:

 

 

Salinity in some streams being measured by volunteers throughout the state have reached levels where it could potentially have a harmful effect on the organisms in the streams. Organisms are affected differently by the amount of salt in the water.

We use a $70 conductivity meter, a long plastic pvc pipe, and sampling bottle to take our measurements. The point of the long PVC pipe is to keep us out of the stream and our feet dry - but this doesn’t always work. :) We enjoy monitoring the streams and it is a great way to get outside, assist with scientific research, and to learn about how urban living affects our watersheds.