New role to monitor water quality in Bonita Springs

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Nicole Weigold is Bonita Springs’ new water steward. She’ll travel the the Imperial River into Estero Bay to collect samples at six different sites once a week. (Credit: WINK News)

From harmful algae to fish kills, we know what it’s like to face water quality woes. Now, one Southwest Florida community and school have teamed up to stay on top of what’s happening.

Nicole Weigold is living the dream. The Florida Gulf Coast University graduate wanted to be a scientist and work on the water.

“This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do in life,” she said.

Like a fish taking to the sea, she now serves as the water steward for Bonita Springs.

“It was a no-brainer,” said Mayor Peter Simmons.

It’s something he has looked forward to for years.

“The Imperial River and Lover’s Key and Estero Bay and other waterways certainly will be a focus, but we’re really going to be, you know, looking everywhere in Bonita Springs,” Simmons said.

Weigold will go down the Imperial River into Estero Bay to collect samples at six different sites once a week.

“Checking things like salinity, that’s really important to understand as far as dissolved oxygen, turbidity, colored dissolved organic material, chlorophyll, and total nitrogen and total phosphorous,” she explained.

“We’re really interested in the Imperial River. It is considered an impaired water body,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, a professor at FGCU’s The Water School.

Parsons said it comes down to collecting more data, more often.

“So we can get a better sense of the dynamics of nitrogen as you have rainfall events, as we go from wet season to dry season, tides and things like that.”

It’s valuable information that can help turn the tide on our water concerns with one scientist charting the course.

“I just want to be able to reach out to the community and stress the importance of taking care of our waterways,” Weigold said.

The water steward position is paid for by a grant.

Parsons hopes to expand the program to other cities in our area.

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