by Beth Baransky, Project Coordinator, LWV Jo Daviess County remote water quality sensing project
The U.S. EPA, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Standards and Technology, United States Geological Survey, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, put forth a challenge to submit proposals for the deployment of low-cost (less than $15,000) continuous nutrient sensors to address an important nutrient pollution water quality problem.
The League of Women Voters of Jo Daviess County in Illinois (LWV-JDC) has been actively seeking water quality data for several years in order to increase our local knowledge. The ultimate goal is to achieve science-based stewardship of the water resources in our area. The Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge fit in well with the League's efforts. We submitted a proposal for the challenge describing the installation of two sensors, one each at the top and bottom of the Lower Galena River subwatershed to gather continuous data on nitrate levels in this portion of the river. Sam Panno, Senior Geochemist at the Illinois State Geological Survey; Walt Kelly, Groundwater Science Section Head at the Illinois State Water Survey; and Beth Baranski, Project Coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Jo Daviess County were the team members on the proposal.
Having been selected as one of the winners of the challenge, in part because “The technical review panel determined that your submission could help better inform decision-making for nutrient reduction in our nation’s waterways,” the League will receive $10,000 in prize money. We’ve been told we can spend the prize money on a trip to Hawaii if we want, but - as tempting as that is - we’re thinking about how best to use the funds to advance water resource management work in the area. This prize money is being awarded for Stage 1 of the challenge, and consideration is now being given to competing in Stage 2 as well, which would involve actual sensor deployment.