Create a graph of turbidity and precipitation and answer data analysis questions

Sharon Dykhoff, Washington D.C. Metro Area - ‎Science Teacher at Dominion Christian School - ‎Dominion Christian School, Susan Brantley, The Pennsylvania State University


Students will graph turbidity and precipitation in Larry's Creek Watershed and identify an area in the graph where turbidity is not caused by rain and is most likely cause by a nearby natural gas drilling leak.

Conceptual Outcomes

Students make connections about the impacts of natural gas drilling on surrounding watersheds

Practical Outcomes

Students create a graph of turbidity and precipitation in Larry's Creek Watershed

Time Required

1 hour

Computing/Data Inputs

  • Precipitation GHCN Daily Climate Data in Larry's Creek Watershed from Idaho State University data service discovered using HydroClient
  • Turbidity data from Shale Network discovered using HydroClient

Computing/Data Outputs


Hardware/Software Required

Internet browser


After discovering and saving datasets to your Workspace in HydroClient open up the WorkSpace. You will see the two datasets as shown below.

Click on the datasets so that both rows are highlighted. Click on the Select Tool dropdown and choose the Data Series Viewer as shown below. Now, click Launch Tool: (2).

The Data Series Viewer will open up in a new web page. The graph is shown below.

The Time Series Viewer is able to graph two different units on dual axes and provides metadata for the data sets below the graph. Also, the Data Series Viewer provides summary statistics including minimum, median, mean, and maximum values and a box and whisker plot for each dataset. Click on the arrow next to the row to expand for details.

Analyze the data

  • Do you see the expected relationship between precipitation and turbidity?
  • Sketch a line to connect the points of lowest turbidity value.
  • Do you see an anomaly (a variation from the expected values) in the data?
  • Are the values in the anomaly related to a precipitation event?
  • Based on the data, do you think the pipeline leak or precipitation was responsible for the increase in turbidity? Support your conclusion with information and data.

Confirm your conclusions

What did the PA DEP conclude about the source of the turbidity in Larrys Creek in October 2011? Go to their website and summarize the details and results of the PA DEP inspection: Fact Sheet

Make connections

Turbidity can be caused by contaminants that are easily seen, however many contaminants from gas drilling are not visible. Water samples must be collected in the field and analyzed in laboratories to detect contamination. The Shale Network helps researchers and citizen scientists publish data about water resources that may be affected by gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.

  • Why is it important to collect and analyze water samples to create a database on water resource quality?
  • Why is it important to monitor water resources throughout the state, even in areas where gas drilling does not take place?
  • Why is it important for this information to be accessible by citizens as well as scientists?

Additional Activities and Variants