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Carter McQuinn and Amaya Holliday

Animas River Water Analysis


Problem Statement:

As a class we traveled to Silverton, Colorado on October 12th from 11:30am to 2:30pm to test
the pH, conductivity, turbidity, temperature, and streamflow of Cement Creek, Mineral Creek,
and the Upper Animas. Using the data collected our goal is to make a prediction of those
characteristics for the Animas River after the confluence.


For our project we went to Silverton and studied Cement Creek, Mineral Creek, and the upper
Animas that contribute to Animas River. Our goal was to use this data and make an estimate
about the river below the confluence of the three streams and then compare it to the Colorado
data. We are doing this investigation to find the conductivity (amount of positive and negative
ions) , pH (potential Hydrogen), turbidity (cloudiness of a fluid) , temperature (the degree of the
intensity of heat), and streamflow (cubic feet per second of water). After collecting the data we
used standard deviation (how spread out data is), weighted average (the percentage each data
set contributes to the total), mean (average), median (the data set exactly in the middle) , range
(max-min), maximum (the highest data point), minimum (lowest data point) to form conclusions
for the Animas River after the confluence.

Visual Representation:
Here are graphs made from our data recorded in Silverton to show the measurements made in
each creek. Starting with pH down to turbidity you can see how the different characteristics in
the streams can vary a lot.

Average pH of all the streams.

Average Conductivity of all streams.

Average of temperature in each stream.

Average streamflow of each stream.

Average turbidity of each stream.

Methods and Process:

To collect the data we used the Vernier LabQuest 2, pH probe, turbidity sensor, measuring tape
with bobber, conductivity probe, streamflow propeller, and thermometer probe. In order to test
pH we calibrated the Labquest with buffer solution yellow pH 7 and buffer solution blue pH 10
then placed the probe into the different creeks. After the turbidity sensor was calibrated, we
collected samples of the creeks and placed the vials into the sensor. To measure the
streamflow in cfs (cubic feet per second) of the water there were two test options. First, you
could measure out a length using a measuring tape and place a bobber at the beginning. Then,
time how long it takes for the bobber to float the decided length do it multiple times and find the
average. The second way to measure the cfs of water was to stick a propeller stick into the
water and The LabQuest 2 will calculate it for you. Furthermore, to measure the temperature
you simply stick the probe into the water and the LabQuest 2 will read the temperatures. Lastly,
you must calibrate the LabQuest for conductivity by placing the probe into two different liquids
one with a low conductivity (potassium chloride 150 us/cm) and a liquid with a medium
conductivity (potassium chloride 1413 us/cm). Once, it is calibrated you can place the probe into
the the creeks and the LabQuest will read it.

After the data was collected, all groups put their results on a communal spreadsheet. From
there, pairs of students copied the shared spreadsheet in order to conduct individual
calculations. Using the knowledge learned in Math 3, we decided to use a weighted average to
predict the characteristics after the confluence of the Animas. To find the weighted average add
all the data points together. In this case we added all the the average streamflow together. Now
with the combined total find what percentage each creek is. (Cement Creek is 26%, Mineral
Creek is 50%, and the Upper Animas is 24%) For example, this is how you calculate the
weighted average for the temperature of the Animas River after the confluence:
25.96 + 49.67 + 24.45 = 100.8 ( 9.48 * .26) + (6.88 * .5) + (4.72 * .24) = 7.03
We used this approach on pH, conductivity, and turbidity.

The first time we did these calculations our percentages for the weighted averages were
incorrect. The errors took place due to faulty rounding. We calculated the Upper Animas as
26%, Cement Creek as 25%, and Mineral Creek as 49%. While going over calculation we
deduce it was impossible for the Upper Animas to be a larger percentage while it had a lower
cfs. After discovering this, we redid our calculations and came to the conclusions: Cement
Creek is 26%, Mineral Creek is 50%, and the Upper Animas is 24%. From there, we used the
new percentages to recalculate our predictions using the weighted average method.


Cement Creek- 26%

Mineral Creek- 50%
Upper Animas- 24%

Specifications of Upper Animas River:

pH- 6.03
Turbidity- 13.8
Conductivity- 545.04
Temperature- 7.03
Streamflow- 100.08

Example of an equation:

Weighted Average, Finding the average with a weighted scale of importance for each number.

25.96 + 49.67 + 24.45 = 100.8 ( 9.48 * .26) + (6.88 * .5) + (4.72 * .24) = 7.03

(9.1 + 9.6 + 9.8 + 9.4)/4 = 9.48

max = min
7 6.7 = .3

Standard Deviation
xx ) /n 1
= sum of
x = each value in the data set
x = mean of all values
n = number of values in the data set

4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 4.9, 4.9
= 4.7

8.54, 8.5, 8.47, 8.48
= 8.54

8.54, 8.5, 8.47, 8.48
= 8.47

All the river/creek beds were stained with a rusty-tinge because of the build up of harsh

We decided to use weighted average because each creeks streamflow varied. It would not
make sense to just average all the creeks data together because the larger creek have more of
an impact on the combination. For example, if you had blue and yellow food coloring and put
four drops of blue in water and only one yellow. The color of the water would be closer to blue
because you had more of it. The blue impacted the results (color) more than the yellow. This is
the same with the creeks because the larger streams affect the combination (Animas after the
confluence) more.

After using weighted averages to make our predictions we compared our data to the USGS
(United States Geological Survey) data and found a mistake. Our weighted average and
percentages were incorrect we switched the percentages for Cement Creek and the Upper
Animas. After we fixed them, we compared to USGS data again and found that our results
closely related to that of their water testing facility. Furthermore, when we were comparing our
results with the USGS, we came across the an issue. The the days we tested it froze and the
conductivity, pH, and turbidity sensor froze. We decided to corroborate our data with the results
of week before's data and were very similar.

The temperature was around 6 C at noon we concluded it was around 7 C. This was most
likely because our class tested during the morning and afternoon and the temperature of the
creeks warm in the afternoon. The streamflow level was around 102 cfs we calculated it to be
100.8. The conductivity sensor was frozen, therefore we compared our results to data trends
from days prior. The USGS reported it to be around 530, we calculated it to be 545.04. This
makes sense because the conductivity has been increasing steadily daily. Moving to pH, they
demonstrated pH as around 6.6 and we calculated 6.03. Based on historical data, this checks
out because the measured pH fluctuates from about 6.6 to 6.3. Finally we calculated turbidity as
13.8. Historical turbidity levels ranged from 5 to 20 with sporadic spike. These variations are
most likely linked to the EPAs upstream water treatment plants work.

The consistency of results is measured in central tendency. This means how close the
averages of your results are compared to both your own other tests and the ones done by other
students. To decide if our results were accurate we compared them to all of the results taken in
the day and removed outliers, any numbers that deviated from the central tendency. We
removed all the negative turbidites because you can not have negative turbidity. Moreover, we
removed Charlie and Katherine's measured conductivity because the other data collectors found
it to be around 300 and theres was an extreme outlier.


I thought that this experiment was very helpful because it helped us understand our local
environment and how our water is effected upstream by Silverton mines. It was interesting
when we went up and talked to the guy near the Gold King Mine and I was able to better
understand what happened during the spill a few years ago. My favorite part of this field trip
was using all the different tools to find pH, temperature, conductivity etc. I thought this was cool
because except for the thermometer I have never used those types of tools. The process of
calibrating the instruments was very interesting to me too. Learning the process on how to
calibrate the tools and then using them all in our project to get our results as accurate as
possible was good and made the trip to Silverton worthwhile.

The Importance:

Conducting these experiments are important because it is essential for people to have an
understanding about the environment. The results from these tests come together to create the
overall water quality. Furthermore, water quality is one of the key indicators of the overall health
of an ecosystem because animals feed off of aquatic life, plants use the water to grow, and
water from the river seeps into the ground affecting the soil. After conducting these tests in our
own rivers it can be concluded our state's history with mining is affecting the present
environment. The rivers and creeks near the mining district of La Plata County are inhabitable,
thus creating an imbalance in the ecosystem. In order to protect and revive our rivers we must
install limestone treatment plants to balance out the pH of the water coming from these mines.
As members of the Animas River Basin Community we must partner with organizations and
stakeholders to ensure clean water for future generations.

Self Assessment:
As a group we deserve an A. We collaborated effectively by sharing the workload evenly. To
start, we assigned each other different sections to write. In order to create tangible pieces for
each partner to complete. Additionally, we effectively used our time in class and outside of class
to complete this lab. Furthermore, we asked each other clarifying questions to ensure we had a
deep understanding of the topic.