The Effect of PH in River Water

by Chris Dinesen Rogers; Updated September 26, 2017
Aerial Photo

Unlike lakes and ponds, rivers are open systems, where frequent water exchange occurs. Despite this fact, the organisms that depend on rivers require some equilibrium. Various indicators give a measure of the quality of a river. These measurement include dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH, which is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration.

Definition

Measuring water quality

The scale for measuring pH goes from 0 to 14 with 7 or under representing an acidic environment, and a reading over 7 indicates an alkaline environment.

Sources of Acidity

Raindrops falling in water

A study published in the journal Nature directly linked acidity in Norwegian rivers and lakes to acid rain, which decimated local salmon and trout populations.

Effects of Low pH

Group of Salmon jumping upstream in river

Low pH levels cause fish kill by stressing animal systems and causing physical damage, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to disease.

Buffering Capacity

limestone wall

The effects of low pH levels can be lessened by the presence of limestone along river banks and in soil.

Factors Influencing pH

Single Large Truck

Other external factors that can cause fluctuations in the river pH include agricultural runoff, acidic mine drainage (AWD), and fossil fuel emissions such as carbon dioxide, which creates a weak acid when dissolved in river water.

Benefits of Testing pH

Valle Maggia

Testing pH levels indicates the acidity or alkalinity of a sample. Rivers have some capacity to prevent changes in pH by the structure and composition of the river bed. However, drastic changes in pH can have detrimental effects on river health.

About the Author

Chris Dinesen Rogers has been online marketing for more than eight years. She has grown her own art business through SEO and social media and is a consultant specializing in SEO and website development. Her past work experience includes teaching pre-nursing students beginning biology, human anatomy and physiology. Rogers's more than 10 years in conservation makes her equally at home in the outdoors.

Photo Credits

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