Long Island depends on its coastal waters economically, with multi-billion dollar tourism and fishery industries, and culturally — the surrounding waters creating its very identity. Keeping these waters clean and healthy is crucial, yet a comprehensive temporal assessment of Long Island’s marine habitats has been on the decline, until this summer.
Christopher J. Gobler, a professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University and principal investigator at the Gobler Lab, has initiated a new program to monitor water quality levels across Long Island each week. The Gobler Lab created the Water Quality Index to inform Long Islanders about the current conditions of local coastal waters, and News 12 Long Island is broadcasting the lab’s reports on Thursdays and Fridays throughout July and August during its weather forecasts. The Water Quality Index is also posted on the News 12 website with an interactive map that allows individuals to drill down to learn more about specific areas across Long island including the most recent conditions.
The Index reports the weekly condition – good, fair or poor — for more than 24 water bodies across Long Island based on the measurement of six water quality parameters: dissolved oxygen, water clarity, chlorophyll (a proxy for all algae), fecal coliform bacteria, temperature and harmful algal blooms. Each parameter represents a factor that can affect the health of marine organisms or, in some cases, the health of the people using the water.
Every week, each parameter is ranked on a scale of 1 to 3 (3 = good, 2 = fair, 1 = poor) using state and federal water quality standards. Based on all of the parameters, an overall weekly score is generated for each location (3 to 2.33 = good, 2.33 to 1.66 = fair, < 1.66 = poor). At the end of summer, a final score will be generated for all sites and for each parameter for each site. This scoring will provide an indication of regions with good water quality and regions that require action to make improvements to help assure that Long Island’s coastal ecosystems are protected and revitalized for future generations.