Water Transparency Project

The Water Transparency Project is an initiative led by the the South Dakota Discovery Center to collect and disseminate water transparency data particularly on water bodies within South Dakota. This data will be used to support 4th grade teachers in meeting the earth science standard 4-ESS2-1 Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

The Water Transparency Project will support educators in making observations and measurements about the rate of erosion caused by water. Water transparency is an indirect measurement in that it measures erosion's impact on the water rather than the amount of erosion itself. Land that is eroding at high rate will have lower water transparency readings and vice a versa.

Water transparency is a measure of light's ability to penetrate water or, in simpler terms, a measure of how clear it is. Water in lakes, rivers, and streams can become clouded through several ways. One such way is the water body is located in a region that has highly erodible geology. Another is that rain and snow melt wash in matter such as sediment from erosion. And water can become cloudy from aquatic organisms such as algae or insects.

Water transparency is a phenomena that is relevant to more than the 4th grade standard. Water transparency leads to learning about erosion, geology, human impacts on the environment and more! This learning is contextualized when local data collected by students is compared with data from around the state and even the country and the world.

Educators at all levels are invited to submit water transparency data using transparency/turbidity tubes through the GLOBE website. Fourth grade educators will want to collect and submit data as part of their instruction to meet the standard. Educators at other levels who teach ecology, earth science, or environmental science may wish to use water transparency monitoring as part of a research project or citizen science activity that has an authentic audience.

Educators must become GLOBE certified to submit data. GLOBE trained educators who teach in South Dakota are eligible for mini-grants to cover the cost of supplies.

Citizen Scientists

The Water Transparency Project depends on data. For this reason, we invite community members and families to become trained and to submit water transparency data. The water transparency citizen science effort is being piloted during the fall 2018 with a full launch of 2019.