Water Quality

Description of the Indicator
This indicator measures two key parameters of water quality (pH, which is commonly used to measure acidity in water, and total dissolved solids) were analyzed. Stream water quality monitoring is conducted at several sites within the region along the Susquehanna River and adjacent watersheds. A pH of seven represents a neutral measurement. A value greater than seven indicates basic or alkaline conditions, and values less than seven indicate acidic conditions. The pH of natural waters is between 6.0 and 8.5. Any values less than 4.5 and above 9.5 tend to be severely damaging to ecosystems. The concentration of total dissolved solids (TDS) is a measure of the number of dissolved materials in water. These materials include sodium, calcium, magnesium, and others. Fresh water usually has TDS levels between 0 and 1,000 mg/L, dependent on the geography and contributing factors in the region. Values over 500 mg/L are considered elevated and can be unsuitable for drinking or household use. Although TDS is not considered a primary pollutant, water with a high TDS concentration may indicate elevated levels of ions such as aluminum, arsenic, copper, lead, nitrate, and others that do pose health concerns.

Why is it important?
Assessing PH and total dissolved solids provides valuable information for monitoring water quality, aids in the protection of aquatic ecosystems, and facilitates sustainable watershed practices.

How is the region doing?
The Susquehanna River tested at an average of 7.28 pH in the most recent year, or slightly more alkaline than neutral water. The average in 2022 is an increase from the previous year’s average of 7.16 by 1.7 percent. Since 2013, TDS levels in the Susquehanna River have consistently been below 200 mg/L, but as of 2022, values are nearing highs not seen since 2015. From 2021 to 2022, TDS has increased by 26 percent.