Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014MI227B

Citizen Monitoring of Chlorides in Drinking Water Using Newly Developed Apps and Online Mapping Program

Institute: Michigan
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,050

Principal Investigators: Jon Bartholic, Yi Shi

Abstract: Problem: Salt contamination of surface and ground water can come from both natural and cultural sources. Naturally, groundwater can contain salts from dissolving rocks and organic material. As groundwater is extracted by anthropogenic activity, deeper water with higher salt content can intrude into shallow ground water. Other anthropogenic sources include road salts and human and animal wastes applied to the surface. High salt concentrations in groundwater can pollute human drinking water sources, including rivers, lakes, and public and private wells. Impacts can also affect freshwater biota (Karraker et al 2008, Corsi et al. 2010). Negative impacts from salt (sodium chloride) contamination of groundwater include salty taste of water and decreased crop yields with irrigation water that has high salt concentrations. While chlorides by themselves rarely cause a human health concern, high sodium levels can impact human health, particularly in individuals with high blood pressure or heart disease. Methods Ottawa County in the southwest portion of Michigan has been addressing salt water contamination for the last few years. In order to determine the extent of saltwater contamination in water wells within Ottawa County, a subset of residences using private wells, will be obtained by looking at well log records, which have been maintained since the mid-1960s. After a subset is selected, chloride test strips will be sent to homeowners who use well water as their drinking water source. By working with researchers at Hope College (also located in Ottawa County), they will be provided instructions as to how to use the strips and asked to run replicate samples over the next year. The initial samples will be measured for salinity analytically at Hope College and compared to the test strip results to provide a robust baseline result. The homeowners will then be provided with instructions for adding their data to an online database through a computer or smart phone application. The database and phone app will be created by IWR to allow the input of data. Users will be able to locate their residence on a map and add their chloride concentrations online. Once developed, this map will be available online with a request form for others not in the original sample set to take part in the study by requesting test strips and adding their chloride data to the map. In this way, a low-cost salinity study of ground water could be broadened to much larger sample sets by dissemination through local media, K-12 school systems and online media. Objectives The objectives of this study are to: 1) establish a subsample of residents in Ottawa County; 2) invite them to be part of this study; 3) distribute chloride test strips with instructions for sampling their drinking water with assistance from local Hope College researchers; 4) validate the initial chloride test strip data obtained from residents analytically; 5) create an online database, mapping program, and smart phone app for adding data; 6) encourage others to obtain test strips and add their data to the map; and 7) share the information with Ottawa county officials and state agencies including the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Transportation.