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In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released in its final report, a field-life aquatic benchmark for conductivity in the Central Appalachian streams at 300 µS/cm (microSemens/centimeter). The same report was also used as guidance for the water quality requirements for coal mines in the region.

Electrical conductivity of water is the estimated measurement of the total dissolved solids or TDS in the water so it can be used as an indicator of impairment in water quality.

According to the report, if the streams around the mines were to exceed the benchmark set by the EPA, they faced a probability of losing the Clean Water Act (CWA) permit – a permit mines require to operate.

However, Dr. Nicholas Zegre, Assistant Professor of Forest Hydrology at West Virginia University, explains below on why conductivity may not be the gold standard when it comes to measuring the water quality.

Even though the National Mining Association may have been right in saying that conductivity is an inappropriate measurement for testing water quality, Zegre adds that not all is lost.

To learn more about conductivity, visit the blog over the next couple of weeks as we use DIY water sensors to check the water quality in a local West Virginia stream.

– Shishira Sreenivas