Testing water quality; inside SARA's water monitoring lab

New monitoring sites to be installed

SAN ANTONIO – Inside the San Antonio River Authority's water monitoring lab, water is tested day in and day out.

"There's never a dull moment," said lab supervisor, David Hernandez.

Water from sources across south Texas is tested.  The general public can even bring in water samples for testing, which means scientists here have seen just about everything.

"We test for E-coli and ammonia, solids; we test for phosphorus, nitrates," said Hernandez.  

In other words, there are some not-so-nice pollutants in area water sources, including in the city's treasured San Antonio River.  

"If we do notice any kind of spike in a certain pollutant then we identify it," said Hernandez.

Identifying is just the first step, however, it is figuring out how to keep those pollutants out of the river that remains a daunting challenge.  The river is often at its worst after a thunderstorm, because the rainwater washes all the pollutants San Antonians leave behind into the river.  The pollutants consume much of the oxygen in the water and can result in dead fish. 

"Especially in this downtown area," said Ernest Moran, San Antonio River Authority's Storm Water Supervisory.  "A lot of times, if we have problems, we don't know about it until after the problem is starting to show itself."

That is the reason behind newly installed monitoring sites along the river.  The sites will provide continuous feedback of water quality, allowing for lead time in warning should oxygen levels drop or any other pollutants spike. 

Meanwhile, public awareness for those who live inside the San Antonio River's watershed, SARA officials believed, is the next step in helping to clean up the city's iconic river.

About the Author: