Stevens Water Monitoring Systems, Inc.

AquaLab Analyzer provides real-time phosphorus measurement in Everglades


When it comes to ecosystem sustainability, Florida is no backwater. The South Florida Water Management District, which includes the unique Everglades habitat, had a major challenge. The EPA and various governmental authorities have defined limits for many water quality parameters to support a water body’s designated use. Any physical, chemical or biological condition that threatens the designated use(s) of the water body represents poor water quality. Therefore, executing a water quality monitoring and management program for a body of water was a critical element in assuring a sustainable ecosystem.

In response, the South Florida WMD created a number of Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) for the purpose of treating agricultural runoff to obtain an acceptable level of Total Phosphorus (TP). Its most ambitious STA, the Everglades Restoration project, has a goal of reducing TP to 10 micrograms per liter. TP level is an indicator of overall nutrient loading of the Everglades System.

However, in a typical water quality management program, traditional water quality sensors can only measure a limited number of physical and chemical parameters such as dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, conductivity and turbidity. Additionally, these sensors often foul due to the nature of the water body conditions. As a result, the sensors do not provide measurements that are continuously calibrated or as accurate as laboratory analysis. On top of this situation, measurement of some chemical and biological parameters is only possible when the water sample is subject to standard laboratory analysis methods.

To overcome these limitations, the South Florida WMD turned to on-site water quality analyzers. The District uses the AquaLab Analyzer and Mini Analyzer produced by Stevens Water Monitoring Systems and Greenspan Technologies Ltd. These flexible, cost-effective analyzers can be used for wastewater treatment, aquaculture, industrial discharge and environmental monitoring.

While water quality analyzers have been an integral part of industrial and wastewater treatment applications, recent technological advancements have resulted in heightened interest in deploying them in environmental monitoring applications. This increased use is especially true in environmentally sensitive areas that require more data collection, higher collection accuracy and monitoring of additional parameters, beyond the capability of the traditional water quality sensors.

These self-contained analyzers are uniquely designed to remotely provide automatic monitoring of a range of physical or chemical parameters with on-board dynamic self-calibration procedures. For example, the Stevens units automatically back flush all samples and inlet lines, to eliminate the possibility of sample carry-over and contamination, and ensure optimum analytical performance for every measurement.

One of the most significant benefits of analyzers is immediate sample analysis. Fast analysis eliminates the risk of sample degradation or contamination that is experienced when samples are collected, stored and transported to a laboratory. Many physical properties can change if the sampled water is exposed to ambient air, sunlight or is stored for a period of time before testing. When combined with new wireless communications solutions, the analyzers can offer a real-time stream of data and a real-time picture of water quality.

The AquaLab and the Mini Analyzer consist of pumps, valves, tubing, chemical reagents, sensors, data collection and data communication systems, and provide frequent precise measurements that are of laboratory quality. The remote analyzers typically measure a variety of chemical parameters not possible with traditional water quality sensors, including TP, nitrate and phosphate. The AquaLab has been successful at providing critically needed phosphorus measurement in the Everglades.

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