Water Quality Monitoring of the Upper St Lawrence River Using Remote Sensor Arrays Placed in a Hydropower Dam Combined with Hydrodynamic Modeling

Monday, 15 December 2014
Faith Neff1, Heather M Sprague2, Joseph D Skufca3 and Michael R Twiss3, (1)Humboldt State University, Environmental Resources Engineering, Arcata, CA, United States, (2)University of California Davis, Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Davis, CA, United States, (3)Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY, United States
There are limited long-term data available on the ecological health and environmental state of the Upper St. Lawrence River (CA,US; average discharge 6,910 m3/s). Our research objective is to establish long-term remote water quality monitoring stations in the Moses-Saunders hydroelectric power dam at Massena, New York using a network of sensors. Such a placement of sensors allows for year-round monitoring of water and hence, the ability to measure at times of year and during extreme weather events that previously made monitoring infeasible. The sensor array was installed on 17 June 2014 and draws water from the penstock at a rate of 6-10 L per minute. Sensors in flow through chambers collect data on temperature, turbidity, color dissolved organic material (CDOM), phycocyanin, chlorophyll-a, and specific conductivity at one minute intervals. In combination with a hydrodynamic flow model we are able to hind-cast water movements so that the quality of water passing through the dam can be related to environmental conditions in the river upstream from the sensor array. We conducted field surveys using sensors in a ferry box on a vessel moving upstream (40 km) at a velocity providing a spatial resolution of 100 m and determined that main channel water is more homogenous than water along the shorelines (2 m isopleth) of the river, despite the high turbulence in this river. The sensor array located in the turbine unit nearest the US shore is able to discern tributary inputs for CDOM from the Oswegatchie River (discharge 40-120 m3/s), located 67 km upstream. This research is an important proof-of-concept for installing similar arrays in dams throughout the Great Lakes region and is applicable to smaller rivers containing power dams.