By Art Malm, P.E., FOFR Director
The Illinois State Water Survey and the Prairie Research Institute of the University of Illinois have completed a major new water quality study for the Fox River. “Water Quality Trends Analysis for the Fox River Watershed: Stratton Dam to the Illinois River” (“WQTA”) shows the water quality of our Fox is generally good and trending a little better.
As importantly, WQTA highlights our new ability to track the health of our Fox over time with scientific measurements. Sponsored by the Fox River Study Group, this study developed the means to collate large amounts of data from many different sources to tell one story. While the data collected and processed reaches back only a couple of decades, we now have good historic data to help further our understanding the threats to the health of our river.
This WQTA parallels the ongoing development of a predictive computer model of the Fox’s planktonic ecosystem. Another computer model (Geosyntec), also sponsored by the Fox River Study Group, is now undergoing calibration. Its success could save many tens of millions of dollars in the future where the impact of dam removal may be demonstrated as a far more cost efficient means to reduce nuisance algae infestations on the Fox than using conventional treatments.
This WQTA is a terrific piece of work. Most of us have lots of experience with the “challenges” presented by the many different kinds of software and paper records we have to deal with. It isn’t very hard to appreciate the effort made to come up with a comprehensive history of the health of our Fox. If you love getting into the nitty gritty of research caliber statistical analysis of big data, WQTA just may be a tour-de-force. A lot of really smart people put this work together and we in the State of Illinois and Fox River Valley are lucky to have them on our team.
The study is available at https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/103009.