Catherine Wolden is the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Water Quality Monitoring Program manager. A native of Florida, she has a Bachelor of Science in environmental science and policy from the University of South Florida and has spent her entire 20-plus-year career in various roles in the District’s Water Quality Monitoring Program.

By Catherine Wolden, Water Quality Monitoring Program Manager, Southwest Florida Water Management District

Water is vitally important to every aspect of our lives. Monitoring the quality of our region’s water helps protect, manage and preserve our aquifers and spring systems. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) has a dedicated team of scientists who collect water quality samples from groundwater and surface water bodies throughout the region.

Q: What is water quality and why is it important?

A: Water quality is a description of the condition of water. Water quality can refer to the chemical, physical and biological condition of water, including the suitability of the water to be used for a specific purpose like drinking, recreation or support of wildlife. The quality of our water is important because it has a direct impact on people and the environment.

Q: Why does the District monitor water quality?

A: The District’s Water Quality Monitoring Program, or WQMP, provides critical data to anyone making decisions about protecting, managing and restoring water resources within our region. District scientists collect samples from surface water bodies like lakes, nearshore estuarine areas, rivers and groundwater systems such as springs and wells.

Q: What does the District look for in water quality monitoring?

A: The District assesses the quality of water in several ways. In the field, scientists record and collect the water temperature, dissolved oxygen concentrations, pH, concentration of ions in the water (specific conductance) and amount of material suspended in the water (turbidity). More complex measurements for nutrients and saltwater indicators are measured in a laboratory.

Q: What does the District do with the collected water quality data?

A: The District uses the data to help make decisions about protecting, managing and restoring water resources within our region. The data collected supports studies of ongoing issues like saltwater intrusion, impacts to aquifers in our region and evaluation of minimum flows and levels for our springs and surface water bodies.

Q: How can the public access the District’s water quality data?

A: The data collected by the District, including water quality data, can be accessed and downloaded from our Environmental Data Portal (EDP) at

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