The week of May 22nd marks the official start of field data collection for Turbid Illinois Season 3. Turbid Illinois is an Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA) sponsored program which encourages self-exploration of our waters and the science that drives our water quality conditions. The program is also partly supported through the Tower lakes Drain Partnership, which provided the initial sample sites. This is as stands a completely 100% volunteer driven process. Below is a few commonly asked questions about Turbid Illinois.
What is Turbid Illinois?
Turbid Illinois (TI) is a volunteer, stakeholder driven, citizen science initiative based off of similar citizen-based groups but with a much narrower focus. Instead of periodic testing needing a lump sum time investment, the protocol attempts to minimize the time investment to achieve data replication and statistically viable sets of data points. This allows the data to be used for trend and baseline analysis over a much shorter period of time.
How might this be important to me?
The idea surrounding this project is the simplified concept of “system in vs system out”. Looking at water clarity at two geographically different points along a water body. The original concept around TI was investigating daily baseline flow into and out of lakes and reservoirs to determine if the water body was serving to capture material or deliver downstream as a source. Due to stakeholder interest we have included numerous stream or creek sample points throughout the watershed. When we see dirty water we may be able to define it as a “load”. Defining a baseline load will better determine when pulses or heavier watershed loads are affecting our lake and stream systems. What are the possible reasons?
What equipment do I need? Is it expensive?
One major goal of this project is to try and put some science in everyone’s hands without applying a price tag that inhibits that very concept. You should have the following materials at your disposal every time you enter the field to pull samples.
- 1 water bottle per sample site. General drinking water bottle will work.
- Device for measuring depth of water from water surface to water body bed. I use a folding tape.
- flashlight or suitable device if you sample late or very early morning.
- boots if you plan on being in the water, although we recommend staying out of the water if possible
- Bug spray is sometimes beneficial depending on how bad the spot is
While a few participants have taken it upon themselves to acquire their own means to process turbidity samples we are more than happy to process them for you. Upon field collection store in a cold place or freeze and we will arrange a pick up for final processing. If you process your own the data is shared.
I am just grabbing water? Seems simple enough, is it?
Yes and no. Physically speaking and in concept the process is very easy, however it is important to be consistent to ensure uniformity of samples. Samples should strive to be taken at or as near as possible to the same location. The collection process should be taken in a matter than best represents a typical sample is taken time and time again. This ensures that the data holds value. Should you chose to enter the water to sample you must do your best to ensure stream or lake bed materials do not enter your sample. Once you have established a system of consistent collection, the process is extremely simple and your field time at each site will likely only be a few minutes.
What do we do after sample collection?
Coordinate with program director who you are already in contact with to coordinate pickup for turbidity analysis. Typically samples should be stored as frozen unless the transfer is same day. Even if the turnover time is short the sample should be refrigerated to minimize the decomposition of organic material which may slightly skew the final number. Along these lines, anticipate a rotation of bottles if necessary to allow time for the processing to return bottles to you.
Where should I sample?
This is up to you! Just a few things to consider. You should never go onto private property without sufficient permission(s). In this regard it is sometimes best to work within known public properties such as Village owned parcels or parks. Avoid sampling areas near pipes, heavily eroded banks, very fast moving water, or areas that are unsafe to complete the sample process.
What happens to the data?
Right now the information is being built into a database repository with the hopes it will be useful for future purposes. Essentially trend analysis of base water quality in the water bodies sampled. TI strives to produce an annual document debriefing any significant findings. Year 1 document is located here:
Look for Turbid IL Master document. Year 2 should be out soon.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact current program lead, Brian Valleskey at:
or any standing IMLA officers or directors. The list can be located at: