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  • Jane Shellenberger

Water quality expert develops public tool for diagnosing health of America’s streams

A model for predicting levels of oxygen in water, developed by West Virginia University researcher and professor Omar Abdul-Aziz, gives citizen scientists nationwide a tool for taking action on stream pollution.

“I have been looking at water quality data for 20 years,” said Abdul-Aziz. “I can tell you that a big percentage of streams in the United States are polluted. Urban streams are getting dumpster runoff, stormwater carrying lawn fertilizers, and trash. Wastewater plants aren’t necessarily treating for dissolved organic carbon, nutrients and pharmaceuticals we’re putting into our sewage.”


Abdul-Aziz’s model relies on water temperature and pH, a measure of acidity, to accurately measure the health of any freshwater stream in the contiguous United States.


“Once we know the oxygen levels in streams, we can take measures such as stream restoration and use green engineering solutions like increasing watershed and streamside vegetation,” he said.

“This tool will help the EPA implement the Clean Water Act… Dissolved oxygen is important because if the level of oxygen in those streams goes below that five-milligram cutoff, it becomes hard for fish and other aquatic animals to breathe and the stream is considered impaired.”


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