Studying water

 Among our many fascinating activities around water is all the research that we put into it.

We study the science of water treatment. We examine how streams relate to their surroundings. We investigate how aquatic organisms respond to chemical pollutants. We analyze the environmental impact of increasingly hard rains.

A particularly impressive player is the Water Research Foundation, a not-for-profit outfit in Colorado that serves water utilities and manufacturers.

Z - Lake Sunapee buoy.jpg

Since 1966 the organization has directed more than $700 million to scientific studies of drinking water, wastewater, the reuse of water, lead in the water, and so on.

The range of research topics runs wide, but one of the more interesting recent developments in water research isn’t about the subject of study but the method of it. The innovation involves the pooling of research from different places. It’s network science.

A striking example is the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network – GLEON for short – that remotely collects data from more than 100 buoys on lakes in six continents. The buoys send information into a shared body of knowledge about such things as how winds can variously roil the waters of deep lakes, shallow lakes, big lakes and small lakes.

One early GLEON participant was the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, a member-supported nonprofit that since 1898 has been looking out for the lake – a 6.5 square mile vacationer’s paradise in western New Hampshire. Its buoy is the one pictured with this post.

The buoy collects data every 10 minutes around the clock on such subjects as air temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, sunlight energy, water temperature at various depths, water conductivity, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen in the water.

The data is accessible by researchers anywhere. And also, promisingly, the data is also of use to a student group whose leaders – profiled in a recent blog posting -- might well be important contributors to water science down the line.