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Water Quality Monitoring Experience

Written by Sarah Howe, MSUM Intern with River Keepers for Fall 2021

On September 28th, 2021, I went along with River Keepers’ Project Coordinator Kim and a fellow intern, Katie, to do some water quality monitoring along the Red River. We went to four different locations with our gear to take samples of the river water. I was interested in going along for testing because I had never experienced anything like it, and I was curious as to how we could evaluate the health of the river. Since the Red River is Fargo-Moorhead’s main source of drinking water, it felt extra important to see how it was done, and to do a good job.

We started by parking on the side of the road atop each bridge we tested from. We then dropped down a special tool to collect water from the river, and used it to fill four different bottles, one for each test. Once the bottles were filled, we recorded the clarity of the water, at the particular time of day, at each location, and collected other readings like the temperature of the water. It was super interesting to see how the clarity changed depending on the location along the river.

I didn’t expect testing to be as hands-on as it was, strapping into harnesses and using heavy equipment to gather important data. But, it wasn’t just that. We saw beautiful views of the river standing on the bridges, and at one stop we walked down to the river’s edge to collect our samples. Down there, we could hear and see all kinds of birds and other critters that utilize and enjoy the Red River, that we couldn’t hear or see from standing on the road above it. Water quality monitoring turned out to be more immersive than I thought it would be, and I quickly realized that the monitoring wasn’t just for the safety of humans, but for the safety of all the creatures that rely on the Red River.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, whether you want to understand how the Red River is monitored or you just want to see some great views and help River Keepers out, you can volunteer on River Keepers’ website at riverkeepers.org/volunteer.

Interns Katie and Sarah collect water samples from the Red River.