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DISSOLVED OXYGEN 101

Understanding the variables that affect it, setting criteria for


healthy water bodies and what to watch for in Lakes and Ponds
DISSOLVED OXYGEN 101
Understanding the variables that affect it, setting criteria for
healthy water bodies and what to watch for in Lakes and Ponds

Dissolved Oxygen is one of the most, if not the single most,


important water quality variable affecting aquatic life.
Fish kills are usually the result of low oxygen conditions in water
bodies.
PRESENTATION TOPICS
• Water – Its special properties
• How fish take up oxygen
• Solubility of Gases in Water
• Air in contact with water
• Solubility of Oxygen vs Temperature
• Solubility of Oxygen vs Altitude
• Dissolved Oxygen Criteria for a healthy fish population
• Lakes and Ponds
WATER’S UNIQUE PROPERTIES
Water has some unique and special properties, without which life on
earth would not be possible.
WATER’S UNIQUE PROPERTIES
Water has some unique and special properties, without which life on
earth would not be possible.
Ability to dissolve gasses: Water, the “universal solvent”. It dissolves
more substances, including gasses, than any other liquid.
WATER’S UNIQUE PROPERTIES
Water has some unique and special properties, without which life on
earth would not be possible.
Ability to dissolve gasses: Water, the “universal solvent”. It dissolves
more substances, including gasses, than any other liquid.
Ice Floats: At 4 ºC water molecules rearrange themselves causing
the water to expand. So instead of becoming denser upon further
cooling it becomes lighter. It is because of this unusual property that
ice floats and lakes don’t freeze solid from top to bottom.
WATER’S UNIQUE PROPERTIES
Water has some unique and special properties, without which life on
earth would not be possible.
Ability to dissolve gasses: Water, the “universal solvent”. It dissolves
more substances, including gasses, than any other liquid.
Ice Floats: At 4 ºC water molecules rearrange themselves causing
the water to expand. So instead of becoming denser upon further
cooling it becomes lighter. It is because of this unusual property that
ice floats and lakes don’t freeze solid from top to bottom.
At 4 ºC water is at its densest. This is why the temperature of water
at the bottom of cold water lakes in the winter is around 4 ºC. The
densest water will settle to the bottom - if it gets any colder or
warmer, it will expand and rise.
WATER – A POLAR MOLECULE
It is the physical attributes of the water molecule that give it these
special properties. Water molecules have a polar arrangement with
one side of the molecule (oxygen) having a slight negative electrical
charge and the other side (hydrogen) having a slight positive charge.
Because of this they become attracted to many different types of
molecules which make water a good polar solvent.
Water molecules are also attracted to each other, which results in its
high surface tension.
At 4 ºC these polar molecules adjust themselves forcing the
negatively charged oxygen atoms further apart and causing the water
to expand and become less dense.
HOW DISSOLVED OXYGEN IS MEASURED
Dissolved Oxygen is usually measured as a concentration, mg/l or ppm
But knowing Dissolved Oxygen concentration in the absence of other information
is not very helpful.
Dissolved Oxygen can be expressed in three ways:
• As a Concentration: mg/l (or ppm)
• As Pressure: mmHg
• As % Saturation: This is a relative value expressing either concentration or
pressure as a percentage of their respective saturation values.
In determining which of these expressions is most appropriate for setting
dissolved oxygen criteria for fish health, one needs to understand the
mechanism by which fish utilize oxygen.
HOW FISH TAKE UP OXYGEN
Fish take up oxygen by pumping water over the gills, where oxygen
diffuses from the water into the blood.

The rate of this diffusion depends

Gill Membrane
WATER BLOOD
on the difference in the dissolved
oxygen pressure in the water vs Dissolved O2 Pressure
in Water
that in the blood.
The steeper the pressure gradient Dissolved O2 Pressure
in Blood
the greater the rate of diffusion.
HOW FISH TAKE UP OXYGEN
Temperature, as will be explained, affects dissolved oxygen.
Warm water holds less dissolved oxygen than cold water.

Thus a fish in warm water must pump more water across its gills than in
cold water in order to deliver the same amount of oxygen.
This is necessary even though the pressure gradient between water and
blood is the same.

So both dissolved oxygen concentration and dissolved oxygen pressure


play a roll.
SOLUBILITY OF GASES IN WATER:

Solubility of gases in water is affected by three things:

• PRESSURE (e.g.Altitude)
• TEMPERATURE
• SALINITY
SOLUBILITY OF GASES IN WATER:
PRESSURE:
The amount of gas that can be dissolved in water is proportional to the
pressure of that gas in contact with the water - (Henry’s Law). The higher
the pressure the greater the solubility.
SOLUBILITY OF GASES IN WATER:
PRESSURE:
The amount of gas that can be dissolved in water is proportional to the
pressure of that gas in contact with the water - (Henry’s Law). The higher
the pressure the greater the solubility.
Water becomes saturated with a dissolved gas when the pressure of the
dissolved gas, sometimes referred to as “gas tension”, is equal to the
pressure of that gas in contact with the water.
SOLUBILITY OF GASES IN WATER:
PRESSURE:
The amount of gas that can be dissolved in water is proportional to the
pressure of that gas in contact with the water - (Henry’s Law). The higher
the pressure the greater the solubility.
Water becomes saturated with a dissolved gas when the pressure of the
dissolved gas, sometimes referred to as “gas tension”, is equal to the
pressure of that gas in contact with the water.
Gases moves back and forth across the gas liquid
interface until pressure equilibrium is reached.
If water is supersaturated with a gas, then the gas
will want to escape, like when you pop the cap off
a bottle of pop.
SOLUBILITY OF GASES IN WATER:
PRESSURE vs CONCENTRATION:
The actual concentration of the dissolved gas, e.g. mg/l or ppm
depends on the solubility of the gas:
Gases have different solubility’s:
E.g. Oxygen is 2.3 times more soluble than nitrogen.
Carbon Dioxide is 40 times more soluble than oxygen.

Concentration of Dissolved Gas = ß x Pressure of Gas in


when saturated contact with water
Where ß = Solubility Coefficient of the Gas
SOLUBILITY OF GASES IN WATER:
Temperature and Salinity affect the solubility of a gas, i.e.
the Solubility Coefficient changes with temperature and salinity.

TEMPERATURE:
Cold water can absorb more gas than hot water. The higher the water
temperature the lower the solubility.

SALINITY:
Salinity affects solubility. The higher the salinity the lower the solubility.
For example, oxygen solubility in Sea Water (35 ppt), is approximately
80% that of Fresh Water.
AIR IN CONTACT WITH WATER:
Air is a mixture of gases.
COMPOSITION OF AIR: Nitrogen (N2) 78.08 %
Oxygen (O2) 20.94 %
Argon (Ar) 0.94 %
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) 0.04 %
AIR IN CONTACT WITH WATER:
Air is a mixture of gases.
COMPOSITION OF AIR: Nitrogen (N2) 78.08 %
Oxygen (O2) 20.94 %
Argon (Ar) 0.94 %
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) 0.04 %
In order to determine the solubility of a constituent gas in air, you need to know its Partial Pressure.
The partial pressure of a constituent gas in a mixture of gases is equal to its volume fraction
multiplied by the total pressure of all the gases, which in the case of air, is the Barometric Pressure.
Hence: Barometric Pressure, BP = PN2 + PO2 + PAr + PCO2
So, partial pressure of oxygen, PO2 = 20.94/100 x BP

NOTE: Water Vapour Pressure has been omitted from above for simplicity.
It should be included in actual calculations
AIR IN CONTACT WITH WATER:
The table below shows the respective Partial Pressures and Solubility's of
the constituent gases of Air in Fresh Water at Sea Level. BP = 760 mmHg
(101.3 kPa)

AIR PARTIAL PRESS. SOLUBILITY SOLUBILITY


% Volume BP = 760 mmHg mg/l at 15ºC % of total
Nitrogen 78.08 583.4 16.36 59.10
Oxygen 20.94 156.5 10.07 36.38
Argon 0.94 7.0 0.62 2.24
Carbon Dioxide 0.04 0.3 0.63 2.28
1
Wtr. Vap. Press. 12.8
TOTAL: 100 760.0 27.68 100.00
1 = Water Vapour Pressure at 100% RH, 15ºC
SOLUBILITY OF OXYGEN AS A FUNCTION OF
TEMPERATURE:
This graph shows how solubility changes with temperature. The warmer the water,
the lower the solubility.
SOLUBILITY OF OXYGEN AS A FUNCTION OF
TEMPERATURE:
As shown below, water with a DO level of 9.1 mg/l would be saturated at 20 ºC, but
only 80% saturated at 10 ºC, and it would be supersaturated at 30 ºC
SOLUBILITY OF OXYGEN AS A FUNCTION OF
TEMPERATURE:

Streams can sometimes become supersaturated in summer due to


heating from the sun.
Water starts off cold and saturated with oxygen as it cascades down from
the mountain.
As it flows more gently across flatter ground it picks up heat from the sun
becomes supersaturated.
Dissolved oxygen concentration increases by approx. 2% per ºC rise in
temperature.
SOLUBILITY OF OXYGEN AS A FUNCTION
OF ALTITUDE AND TEMPERATURE:
Altitude will affect solubility because air pressure changes with altitude.
The higher the altitude the lower the dissolved oxygen solubility.

Solubility of Oxygen in mg/l as a function of Altitude and Temperature


Fresh Water, Moist Air

Altitude in meters and feet - Barometric Pressure in mmHg shown below


0m 500 m 854 m* 1000 m 1500 m 2000 m
TEMP
0 ft 1640 ft 2802 ft 3281 ft 4921 ft 6562 ft
ºC
760 717 688 676 638 602
0 14.61 13.78 13.22 12.99 12.25 11.55
5 12.77 12.04 11.55 11.35 10.70 10.09
10 11.28 10.64 10.20 10.03 9.45 8.91
15 10.07 9.49 9.10 8.95 8.43 7.94
20 9.08 8.55 8.20 8.06 7.59 7.15
25 8.25 7.76 7.44 7.31 6.88 6.48
30 7.54 7.10 6.80 6.68 6.28 5.91
* = Altitude of Red Deer
SOLUBILITY OF OXYGEN AS A FUNCTION
OF ALTITUDE AND TEMPERATURE:
It is unlikely that the solubility tables you are using will give values for your altitude.
Often oxygen solubility values are only given for standard barometric pressure
i.e. average Barometric Pressure at sea level.
If you know the oxygen solubility at a given barometric pressure, you can correct
for the barometric pressure at your location as follows:
O2 Solubility at BP2 = Solubility at BP1 x BP2/BP1
To determine Barometric Pressure at a given altitude, or elevation, use the formula
below:
Log10 BP = 2.880814 - (H ÷ 19748.2)
Where H = Elevation in meters at your location.
NOTE: The above does not take into account water vapour pressure, but it is a close enough approximation.
To be more correct, water vapour pressure, if you know what it is, should be deducted from
barometric pressure.
DISSOLVED OXYGEN CRITERIA
FOR A HEALTHY FISH POPULATION
In a paper "Minimal Dissolved Oxygen Requirements for Aquatic Life", John Davis
(DFO 1975) established dissolved oxygen criteria based on incipient oxygen
response thresholds expressed in terms of Po2 (mmHg) as well as oxygen
concentration (mg/l).
● In colder water, oxygen response thresholds

Gill Membrane
WATER BLOOD
are dictated by dissolved O2 pressure, Po2
to maintain the necessary pressure gradient. PO2 Sat. 157 mmHg

● In warmer water, where the oxygen

72 mmHg
concentration is much lower than in colder PO2 70% 110 mmHg
water with the same Po2, it is the mg/l 25 mmHg
value that determines the requirements PO2 Blood
85 mmHg
for respiration.
DISSOLVED OXYGEN CRITERIA
FOR A HEALTHY FISH POPULATION
From statistical data collected, three levels of protection were derived:
Level A This represents more or less ideal
conditions and assures a high Incipient DO Theshold Levels based on either
degree of safety for fish stocks. PO2 in mmHg or DO Concentration in mg/l
Protection PO2 DO Conc
Level B This is the oxygen value where the GROUP
Level mmHg mg/l
average member of a fish population
starts to exhibit symptoms of distress. Fresh water salmonid A 120 7.75
Some degree of risk exists if the O2 population (incl. B 90 6.00
minimum is prolonged beyond a steelhead) C 60 4.25
few hours. Mixed fresh water fish A 110 7.25
Level C At this level a large portion of a fish population, incl. B 85 5.25
salmonids
population will be affected and if C 60 3.25
prolonged beyond a few hours, the Mixed fresh water fish A 95 5.50
effects can be serious. population with no B 75 4.00
salmonids C 55 2.50
DISSOLVED OXYGEN CRITERIA
FOR A HEALTHY FISH POPULATION
By way of example, we will determine which of the two, mmHg or mg/l, will dictate dissolved
oxygen criteria:
Consider Protection Level A, mixed fresh water Incipient DO Theshold Levels based on either
fish population, BP = 760 mmHg (sea level) PO2 in mmHg or DO Concentration in mg/l
Protection PO2 DO Conc
Fresh Water at 10ºC: PO2 = 157 mmHg GROUP
Level mmHg mg/l
DO Conc = 11.3 mg/l A 120 7.75
Fresh water salmonid
mmHg as % sat. = 110/157 = 70% population (incl. B 90 6.00
mg/l as % sat = 7.25/11.3 = 64% steelhead) C 60 4.25
Therefore PO2 determines DO level. Mixed fresh water fish A 110 7.25
population, incl. B 85 5.25
Fresh Water at 20ºC: PO2 = 157 mmHg
salmonids C 60 3.25
DO Conc = 9.1 mg/l
mmHg as % sat. = 110/157 = 70% Mixed fresh water fish A 95 5.50
mg/l as % sat = 7.25/9.1 = 80% population with no B 75 4.00
salmonids C 55 2.50
Therefore DO Conc. determines DO level.
DISSOLVED OXYGEN CRITERIA FOR A HEALTHY FISH POPULATION
Dissolved Oygen Criteria derived from Incipient DO Theshold Levels
based on PO2 in mmHg and DO Concentration in mg/l
Protection PO2 DO Conc % Sat. values from either mmHg or mg/l, which ever the greater
GROUP
Level mmHg mg/l 0 ºC 5 ºC 10 ºC 15 ºC 20 ºC 25 ºC
Fresh water salmonid A 120 7.75 83.9 84.1 84.4 84.9 94.3 104.8
In these two tables, Dissolved population (incl. B 90 6.00 62.9 63.1 63.3 65.7 73.0 81.1
steelhead)
Oxygen criteria are shown as C 60 4.25 41.9 42.0 42.2 46.6 51.7 57.4
Mixed fresh water fish A 110 7.25 76.9 77.1 77.4 79.4 88.2 98.0
both % Sat (top table) and population, incl. B 85 5.25 59.4 59.6 59.8 60.1 63.9 71.0
salmonids
mg/l (bottom table). C 60 3.25 41.9 42.0 42.2 42.4 42.7 43.9
Mixed fresh water fish A 95 5.50 66.4 66.6 66.8 67.2 67.7 74.3
population with no B 75 4.00 52.4 52.6 52.8 53.0 53.4 54.1
salmonids
NOTE: As BP decreases with C 55 2.50 38.4 38.5 38.7 38.9 39.2 39.5

increasing altitude, PO2 for air Altitude, metres 854 BP, mmHg 688

saturated water gets smaller Dissolved Oygen Criteria derived from Incipient DO Theshold Levels
resulting in higher % Sat. values, based on PO2 in mmHg and DO Concentration in mg/l
Protection PO2 DO Conc mg/l values from either mmHg or mg/l, which ever the greater
but mg/l values remain the same GROUP
Level mmHg mg/l 0 ºC 5 ºC 10 ºC 15 ºC 20 ºC 25 ºC
(higher % Sat. x lower mg/l will Fresh water salmonid A 120 7.75 11.08 9.74 8.63 7.75 7.75 7.75
Yield constant mg/l values) population (incl. B 90 6.00 8.31 7.30 6.47 6.00 6.00 6.00
steelhead) C 60 4.25 5.54 4.87 4.31 4.25 4.25 4.25
Mixed fresh water fish A 110 7.25 10.15 8.92 7.91 7.25 7.25 7.25
population, incl. B 85 5.25 7.85 6.90 6.11 5.49 5.25 5.25
salmonids C 60 3.25 5.54 4.87 4.31 3.87 3.51 3.25
Mixed fresh water fish A 95 5.50 8.77 7.71 6.83 6.13 5.56 5.50
population with no B 75 4.00 6.92 6.08 5.39 4.84 4.39 4.00
salmonids C 55 2.50 5.08 4.46 3.95 3.55 3.22 2.93
LAKES AND PONDS
OXYGENATION OF LAKES AND PONDS:
From Natural Aeration: Oxygen from the air gets absorbed at the surface of the
water. Turbulence and wave action increases surface
area, the greater the surface area the more oxygen is
absorbed.
LAKES AND PONDS
OXYGENATION OF LAKES AND PONDS:
From Natural Aeration: Oxygen from the air gets absorbed at the surface of the
water. Turbulence and wave action increases surface
area, the greater the surface area the more oxygen is
absorbed.
From Photosynthesis of: Most oxygen comes from photosynthesis of aquatic plants,
Aquatic Plants algae and phytoplankton. This only happens during daylight
hours, at night aquatic plants consume oxygen. There is a
diurnal fluctuation in oxygen levels: Rising during the day
when O2 from photosynthesis exceeds O2 demand of
aquatic life, then dropping during the night. On bright sunny
days water can become super saturated with oxygen.
Conversely on dark cloudy days oxygen levels can drop
dangerously low at night.
LAKES AND PONDS
CAUSES OF OXYGEN DEPLETION:
Decomposition of: While healthy algae blooms and aquatic plants will produce enough
Organic Matter O2 to support aquatic life over 24 hour period, dying populations may
consume more O2 than they produce. This plus the decay of other
organic matter can lead to dangerously low oxygen levels.
LAKES AND PONDS
CAUSES OF OXYGEN DEPLETION:
Decomposition of: While healthy algae blooms and aquatic plants will produce enough
Organic Matter O2 to support aquatic life over 24 hour period, dying populations may
consume more O2 than they produce. This plus the decay of other
organic matter can lead to dangerously low oxygen levels.
Eutrophication: Discharge of phosphates and other nutrients from fertilizers,
livestock and sewage induces explosive growth of algae and plants,
the decaying of which depletes dissolved oxygen.
LAKES AND PONDS
CAUSES OF OXYGEN DEPLETION:
Decomposition of: While healthy algae blooms and aquatic plants will produce enough
Organic Matter O2 to support aquatic life over 24 hour period, dying populations may
consume more O2 than they produce. This plus the decay of other
organic matter can lead to dangerously low oxygen levels.
Eutrophication: Discharge of phosphates and other nutrients from fertilizers,
livestock and sewage induces explosive growth of algae and plants,
the decaying of which depletes dissolved oxygen.
Ice & Snow cover: Prolonged ice and snow cover can be a problem. Not only does the
water not have access to air, snow covered ice prevents adequate
sunlight penetration for photosynthesis. This together with decaying
organic matter may lead to Winter Kill. A preventive measure is to
partially clear snow in long strips to allow sunlight to penetrate, or
use an aerator(s) to keep an open area of water.
LAKES AND PONDS
CAUSES OF OXYGEN DEPLETION:
25ºC
Lake Stratification and Turnover:
Epilimnion
Epilimnion: Upper warm layer in contact with the air
higher in dissolved oxygen. Thermocline

Thermocline: Thin distinct layer in which temperature


changes rapidly with depth.
Hypolimnion
Hypolimnion: Cold bottom layer deficient in oxygen
due to reduced sunlight and Temperature
decaying bottom sediment. Profile
4ºC

Seasonal lake turnover results in the oxygen deficient bottom layer coming to the surface
and mixing with the surface water, sometimes resulting in the entire lake or pond becoming
oxygen deficient.