Environmental chemist Jennie Atkins manages the Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring (WARM) Program, which monitors and measures Illinois' waters, soils, and climate. Atkins joined the Illinois State Water Survey in 2011. WARM works with municipalities, industries, state agencies, and environmental groups to develop monitoring plans to address major watershed issues.
How long has WARM been established and collecting data?
JA: The WARM Program began in the early 1990s. However, all the WARM networks predate the program – The Illinois Climate Network began in 1989, the Reservoir Observation Network has data from 1983, the Benchmark Sediment Network has been collecting samples since 1981, and there are wells in the Shallow Groundwater Wells network that the Water Survey has monitored since the 1950s and 60s.
How do different stations work individually and together to collect research data?
JA: Each network is set up to collect specific data -- how much sediment is in rivers and streams, reservoir levels, soil temperatures, etc. So each has its own monitoring protocols.
What are the main goals of WARM?
JA: The Illinois State Water Survey is tasked by the state to “collect facts and data concerning the volumes and flow of underground, surface, and atmospheric waters of the State” and “act as the central data repository for the state in matters related to water and atmospheric resources” and the WARM Program is a large part of that.
We collect long-term, dependable data on the state’s waters, weather, and soils. If you want to know what happened in the past five minutes, last week, or twenty years ago, we have the information. And so that why WARM data are used by farmers making planting decisions, engineers studying water supplies, and state officials determining the impact of conservation programs.
Are there any new or novel instruments used for data collection?
JA: No, not really. We rely on a dependable set of instruments and techniques for our measurements. We want to make sure that what we measured 25 years ago is equivalent to what we measured yesterday. So when introducing a new instrument or technique we take time to test it in the lab and at our stations. This can take up to a year. We have worked with university researchers to test their new equipment and materials at our ICN stations.