Engineer develops tool to predict oxygen levels in water

Engineer develops tool to predict oxygen levels in water
Engineers have developed a model that can help predict levels of dissolved oxygen in any water body. Credit: Omar Abdul-Aziz

Plants and animals on land aren't the only organisms that need oxygen to survive. Underwater aquatic life also requires dissolved oxygen to live and prosper.

But factors such as pollution, and bacteria can deplete the amount of dissolved oxygen in an aquatic ecosystem, setting off a that kills aquatic life and potentially spreads disease to humans.

In a U.S. National Science Foundation-supported study, West Virginia University engineer Omar Abdul-Aziz developed a simple, effective model that predicts dissolved oxygen in streams across the U.S. Atlantic Coast. Abdul-Aziz said the model can be applied to anywhere in the world.

"This research has provided a tool that can be used to identify regions with oxygen-deficient water resources, potentially enhancing their opportunities for improvement," said Bruce Hamilton, a program director in NSF's Directorate for Engineering.

Abdul-Aziz's research found that streams in the southern U.S.—in Florida and Georgia, for instance—have a higher metabolism, meaning that they contain less dissolved oxygen due to and the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

The findings are published in Science of the Total Environment.

"Water quality in rivers and streams has degraded throughout our nation and the world," Abdul-Aziz said. "If the water quality is not good, you'll end up with low oxygen. And just like we need oxygen in the air to breathe, such as bugs, fish and flora need oxygen. If there's not enough oxygen, there can be major deaths and the decomposed matter can spread disease to humans."

A small amount of oxygen is dissolved in water, entering it from the atmosphere and groundwater discharge. Historically, making continuous measurements or predictions of dissolved oxygen has been challenging, given numerous streams and rivers and their diverse settings. For his study, Abdul-Aziz said that he established a novel concept that contains only two parameters.

"The more parameters, the more uncertain are the predictions," he said. "The important drivers are typically nutrients, temperature, atmospheric pressure, stream width and depth, pH and salinity. We brought these together in a simplified model to reduce uncertainty in the prediction, resulting in the output of ."

Abdul-Aziz tested his model on streams across the U.S. Atlantic Coast, which revealed discrepancies between northern and southern regions. Poorer was identified in southern streams. Abdul-Aziz pins this on warmer water temperatures, the presence of nutrients and narrower, shallower streams.

More information: Shakil Ahmed et al, Metabolic scaling of stream dissolved oxygen across the U.S. Atlantic Coast, Science of The Total Environment (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153292

Journal information: Science of the Total Environment
Citation: Engineer develops tool to predict oxygen levels in water (2022, March 9) retrieved 18 June 2024 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Climate change has likely begun to suffocate the world's fisheries


Feedback to editors