Educational Outreach

Water Quality Testing

Indira Sukhraj collecting water quality samples
Indira Sukhraj, Associate Director, Educational Outreach, collecting water quality samples.

Learning Outcomes 

  • Explain the process of eutrophication
  • Relate abiotic and biotic parameters
  • Identify the difference between point and non-point pollution
  • Understand why the Earth’s fresh water supply is considered a limited resource
  • Interpret data and results of testing


  • 6 water samples from various sources (run-off, tap water, wetlands, lakes, stream, retention pond)
  • Commercial Water quality test tabs or test kit* (LaMotte 5918 Urban Water Quality Test Kit used in this activity)
  • 6 Test tubes
  • 1-gallon Distilled water
  • Gloves
  • Liquid waste container

*Commercial water quality test kits can be purchased at a pool supply store, home improvement store or even online lab supply company

How It Works 

Nutrients are vital to the health of an ecosystem.  Phosphorus is one of the key elements necessary for growth of plants and animals.  This is especially true in lake ecosystems.  Like nitrate, high levels of phosphorus can lead to overgrowth of plants, increased bacteria, and decreased oxygen levels.  However, too many nutrients can be determinantal to an ecosystem.  An excessive amount of nutrients such as phosphate can lead to eutrophication.  Eutrophication is excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen.  Most nutrients involved in eutrophication are derived from point-source human activity pollution such as fertilizer runoff from agriculture, land development, stormwater runoff, construction, and wastewater treatment.  Student will test water samples to determine the health of each sample and identify possible sources of imbalance. 


  1. Site preparation
  2. Observation and Predictions
  3. Testing and Discussion


  1. At the end of the laboratory exercise, why were the test liquids placed in a waste container?
  2. What might be the source of the type of pollution found in your samples?
  3. How do water samples from various areas of the same site vary?
  4. What are natural methods of phosphate entering the water?
  5. What organisms might be affected by poor water quality?


Additional Resources