Water Quality Decision Support Tool

By Derek Hohls, CSIR

The development of a Decision Support Tool (DeST) for oceans and coastal water quality (the “WQ DeST”) is being promoted by the National Oceans and Coastal Information Management System (OCIMS) project in order to support the mandate of monitoring of environmental variables, compliance and enforcement, and information dissemination.  At the time of writing, the tool is still in the “alpha” stage of development.

The WQ DeST has adopted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) definition of water quality viz.”the condition of the water, including chemical, physical, and biological characteristics, usually with respect to its suitability for a particular purpose such as drinking or swimming” (http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/ocean/waterquality.html, 2017-06-06).

Examples of water quality parameters include:

  •     dissolved oxygen
  •     bacteria levels
  •     salinity (amount of salt)
  •     turbidity (amount of suspended material)

An increasingly high fraction of people live at coast or in a community of coastal users. Increased impervious surfaces near the coast, discharges from waste-water treatment facilities, direct discharge from industrial pipelines, as well as intensive farming practices in inland areas, from which there is run-off during rainfall events, all affect the quality of the water flowing into the ocean at the coast.  NOAA estimates that eighty percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/pollution.html).  In addition, direct contamination of the ocean by events such as oil spills, or non-biodegradable material, such as plastics, also poses hazards.

The aim of the WQ DeST is to attempt to integrate data from multiple sources and organisations that are carrying out in-situ monitoring, and disseminate this data by means of Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) (http://www.opengeospatial.org/) standards-based tools and data structures, along with suitable summaries and visualisations; as well as to make available interpreted satellite imagery, that can provide insight into some aspects of broad temporal-spatial water quality trends and patterns.