GRDA installs new water quality monitoring equipment on Grand, Hudson

Gathering data, sharing data with other resource agencies, and utilizing that data to address water quality issues in the Grand River system.

Roger Simmons, lab technician at the GRDA Ecosystems Water Quality Laboratory, performs a water sampling test.

Since its inception in 2004, those have all been top priorities of the Grand River Dam Authority Ecosystems Management Department. That effort took a major step forward in early 2010 when GRDA opened the doors on its state-of-the-art water quality laboratory at the Ecosystems and Education Center in Langley. Recently, with the addition of some high-tech electronic monitoring equipment, GRDA is again moving forward with its commitment to water quality issues in the Grand River system.

Those traveling across historic Pensacola Dam in recent weeks may have noticed the latest tool in GRDA’s ongoing data gathering efforts, floating in the waters near Pensacola’s intakes.

Mounted on a couple of small pontoons and operated by solar power, this new tool is a water quality “profiler” with the ability to gather

information at three-foot intervals, from the top to the bottom of the water column.

With similar profilers located in the tailrace below the dam, as well as above and below Robert S. Kerr Dam on Lake Hudson, GRDA plans to gather an immense amount of data. According to GRDA Ecosystems Management Superintendent Dr. Darrell Townsend, that data will be valuable for years to come.

“These profilers will help us to begin a long-term data set,” said Townsend. “It’s information we need in order to address water quality

New water quality profiler, floating in Grand Lake, near the intake structure of Pensacola Dam.

issues in the future.”

However, it’s also data that will soon be available to the general public, Townsend added. Plans are to link the floating profiler at Pensacola Dam to the GRDA website in the future. Those interested in dissolved oxygen levels, pH, water temperature, blue green algae conditions (as needed), and other water quality parameters will eventually be able to find what they need at grda.com.

“We feel this is something the public would be interested in as well, so we do hope to make it available on our website,” said Townsend. “We also plan to have it displayed on a monitor outside of our water laboratory here in the Eco Center.”

Eventually that display monitor – located just outside the entrance to the water laboratory – will also be able to display real-time images from laboratory microscopes, added Townsend.

While GRDA owns the profiling equipment, it has contracted with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) – another Oklahoma agency with water quality responsibilities — to handle the maintenance. 

“Since our department was established in 2004, we have worked to build strong partnerships with agencies like OWRB, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers,” said Townsend. “Shared expertise and experiences are as valuable as the data we are collecting.”

Meanwhile, GRDA is also working with Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma and Harvard University on these issues. Currently, students from each of these universities are using mobile “hydro lab” profilers to gather water data at several locations across Grand Lake.

“It’s the same type of information we’re gathering at the permanent profiler sites,” said Townsend. “Getting it from these various lake sites will help us to build a stronger data set. Plus, the partnerships with the universities are very beneficial and even provide us more manpower in our lab.”

In recent weeks, GRDA has been conducting dissolved oxygen (DO) testing at Pensacola Dam. Data collected from the new profilers will certainly play a role in how GRDA is able to deal with that issue in the future.

“Based on the DO information we are gathering, along with the work performed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), we hope to eventually tie information from the probes directly to our hydroelectric generation controls at our Energy Control Center,” Townsend said.

Because of its vast experience with DO issues, GRDA contracted with TVA to study possible DO enhancements at Pensacola and Kerr Dams. When all that work is complete, new formulas could be implemented that will help to customize generation controls to DO needs at various times of the year.

According to Townsend, the overall goal of the new profilers, and the working relationships with other resource agencies, is simply to meet one of the primary missions of GRDA.

“GRDA was established to be a conservation and reclamation district for the waters of Grand River,” said Townsend, “and these tools and this data will help us to continue with that role.”

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