Detecting Water Quality Parameters in Tibbee Creek, Mississippi Using Aerial Imagery

Author(s): Irvin, S.; Paz, J.; Tagert, M.; Parajuli, P.; Cathcart, T.

Assessing water quality on impaired streams helps determine the magnitude of its impairment and identify the exact location where the impairment is most severe. Advances in remote sensing and geospatial technology have allowed researchers and environmental agencies to assess streams by monitoring large areas. Using both in situ measurements and aerial imagery and comparing the differences can provide a more specific view on the streams health. The main goal of this study was to demonstrate the use of aerial imagery in detecting water quality indicators in impaired streams. A 3-mile segment of Tibbee Creek in Clay County, Mississippi, an impaired water body listed on the Mississippi 303(d), was selected for this study. Water samples were collected at different points along the river, with transects at each point between May and July 2010. The temperature differences and dissolved oxygen levels were measured at each transect. Samples were tested for turbidity, total suspended solids (TSS) and biological oxygen demand (BOD5). High resolution (0.5 m) aerial images that covered the entire study area were obtained in order to capture spatial differences along the channel. Preliminary analysis shows that turbidity readings were higher in the downstream segment of the river during the early part of testing and toward the end of testing. This was not the case during the middle of the summer and after rain events. Relationships between spectral bands and observed water quality parameters were used to estimate the water quality parameters at different locations of Tibbee Creek. The results of this research are expected to assist in the development of near real-time maps for the evaluation and monitoring of water quality of streams and rivers, providing large spatial coverage resulting in significant cost-savings over conventional in situ water quality.

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