The Veins of Life  Watershed Society


The following are tips and suggestions to keep in mind when testing your water sample:
  • If possible, take the temperature of the water at the source rather than in the container.
  • When collecting water samples, tape a broomstick to the water sample container to avoid getting yourself wet.
  • Prepare the Dissolved Oxygen sample for testing at the site to avoid trapping air bubbles on the journey home.  You may test for Dissolved Oxygen at home.
  • If testing for Turbidity at home, be sure to mix the water sample since sediments or particles may have settled.
  • If the Dissolved Oxygen levels readings are at 10 ppm, record 10+ ppm on your data sheet. 
Observation Instructions
    Lower the thermometer 10 cm below the water surface and keep it submerged for 2 minutes.  Read the temperature while the thermometer is still in the water.  Look up the temperature reading on the chart entitled “Optimal Stream Life at Various Temperatures” in the manual.
    Rip off about a 5 cm strip of pH paper.  Dip the paper in the water and then match the colour to the chart on the roll.  Repeat the test to check for reliability.  Look up the pH reading on the chart entitled “pH Scale” in the manual.
    Never smell the water sample directly.  Use the wafting technique.  Hold your nose about 15-20 cm away from the mouth of the container.  Use your hand to waft the odour towards your nose.  If you detect a smell, look up the smell on the Water “SENSE” Wheel and Interpreting Your Results, or in the chart below.
    Examine the water sample from all angles if it is possible (top, side, bottom).  If you detect something odd, look it up on the Water “SENSE” Wheel and Interpreting Your Results, or in the chart below.
If you have questions regarding monitoring an outfall and water quality testing, please email (see below) the education coordinator.

We welcome your input!  We would love to post tips and tricks you have discovered along the way.

What’s wrong with yourWATER?

What does your water look like?
yellow water
water passing through peaty soil and vegetation, “yellow” iron in water
tannins, iron
milky water
excessive air or particles in water
particles, air
green water
algae present in water, early stages of euthrophication 
shiny film on the surface
spill or leak from road, poor practices by local businesses and homeowners
oil, gas
foamy water
wastewater discharge, leak form sewage system, poor practices by local businesses and homeowners
foaming agents, dilute sewage
brown-red water
naturally occurring iron, iron bacteria, leaching from old pipes
cloudy water
organic matter, excess sediment
dirt, sand, clay, silt, organic matter
colour coating on the surface
leak or spill from industry, poor practices by local businesses and homeowners
various chemicals 
(ex. paint)

What does your water smell like?
musty, earthy smell
excess algae, vegetation
organic matter (leaves, grass, algae, etc)
bleach smell
excess chlorination, inadequate dechlorination 
detergent smell
waste water discharge, poor practices by local businesses and homeowners 
foaming agents, dilute sewage
rotten egg smell
sewage overflow, sulfate reducing bacteria
hydrogen sulfide gas
oil or gas smell
spill or leak from road, poor practices by local businesses and homeowners
oil, gas
fecal smell
human and animal wastes, sewage overflow, manure, fertilizers, agricultural runoff
fishy, sweet, perfume smells
industrial chemicals and wastes
various volatile organic chemicals

Contaminants can go undetected by our senses. For example, micro-organisms from animal wastes leave no sensory clues. Always be careful and protect yourself from the water. Wear gloves and wash your hands after testing!

© 2009 Veins of Life Watershed Society / All Rights Reserved / if you wish to use any info for commercial or non commercial usage you must obtain permissions from The Veins of Life Watershed Society