Continuous Water-Quality Monitoring Network

Science Center Objects

The USGS Nebraska Water Science Center maintains a network of continuous water-quality monitors across Nebraska which provide near-real-time water-quality data. Continuous water-quality monitors are typically installed at or near existing USGS stream gages or wells. Parameters that are monitored at continuous water-quality sites include water temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, nitrate, chlorophyll, cyanobacteria, fluorescent dissolved organic matter, and pH.

The USGS Nebraska Water Science Center maintains a network of continuous water-quality monitors across Nebraska which provide near-real-time water-quality data. Continuous water-quality monitors are typically installed at or near existing USGS stream gages or wells. Data from the continuous water-quality monitoring network provides needed data for water managers, researchers, and analytical studies; allows for the assessment of status and long-term trends of water-quality parameters; and assists in identify pollution events that may have occurred.

 

Map of continuous water-quality sites in Nebraska
Continuous water-quality sites in Nebraska.

Currently, the continuous water-quality network includes 13 sites that collect water temperature data and 15 sites that collect multiple parameters.

See all the Nebraska continuous water-quality data: USGS WaterQualityWatch

Parameters that are monitored at continuous water-quality sites include

  • water temperature,
  • specific conductance,
  • dissolved oxygen,
  • turbidity,
  • nitrate,
  • chlorophyll,
  • cyanobacteria, 
  • fluorescent dissolved organic matter, and 
  • pH.

Using Continuous Water Quality to Predict Chemistry and Bacteria

The lower Platte River in eastern Nebraska, provides drinking water, irrigation water, and in-stream flows for recreation, wildlife habitat, and vital habitats for several threatened and endangered species. The USGS Nebraska Water Science Center, in cooperation with the Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance (LPRCA) and the Nebraska Environmental Trust, developed site-specific regression models for water-quality constituents at four sites: Shell Creek near Columbus, Nebr.; Elkhorn River at Waterloo, Nebr.; Salt Creek near Ashland, Nebr.; and Platte River at Louisville, Nebr. in the lower Platte River corridor.

Sample graph of computed e.coli concentrations in the Platte River at Louisville, NE
Computed daily E.coli bacteria concentration in the Platte River at Louisville, NE

Since 2007, USGS, in cooperation with the LPRCA, has continuously monitored four water-quality properties seasonally within the lower Platte River corridor:

  • specific conductance,
  • water temperature,
  • dissolved oxygen,
  • and turbidity.

During 2007 through 2011, the USGS and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality collected and analyzed discrete water-quality samples for

  • nutrients,
  • major ions,
  • pesticides,
  • suspended sediment,
  • and bacteria.

These datasets were used to develop the regression models used on the Nebraska Real-Time Water Quality web site.The models were developed by relating continuously monitored water-quality properties (surrogate measurements) to discrete water-quality samples. The regression models allow constituents that are continuously measured to estimate constituent concentrations from discreet samples such as E.coli. By linking the regression models with web-based software, the concentrations are estimated on a near-real-time basis. Past and present estimates, as well as the data and statistical models that go into the estimates can be viewed in tabular form or as graphs. The graphs have the additional benefit of showing the statistical strength of the estimated constituent and, when applicable, the likelihood that a regulatory limit is being exceeded.  These estimates are publicly available and can be useful to natural resource managers, drinking water utilities, recreational users, or the general public.

Data from Sites in the Lower Platte River Corridor