Sampling the river at fixed depths and positions was the first major hurdle to overcome. The equipment I needed, a Van Dorn sampler, is an open tube that descends in to the water, and when it reaches the specified depth, releases the catch to seal the tube trapping the water from that specific depth within it. The issue I had with this was that the equipment cost in excess of £1000.00, money I didn’t have.
After some consideration, modification and improvisation, I built my own. Made from clear PVC piping, bungee straps and toilet plungers, the finished product was effective and had cost a tenth of the professional equivalent.
Because of the limited depths and strong currents within the estuary, lowering the sampler on a rope and hoping that the depth would be correct seemed unscientific and would add too big a margin of error to the results to be satisfactory. Again, online retailers came to the rescue, and a 5 metre long decorators retractable pole provided the perfect combination of lightweight manoeuvrability and precise depth monitoring. So, we were set.
Out on the survey vessel Capella, provided by the port authority, we began sampling. Logging location, time, total depth and sample depth, I began collecting samples to then analyse in the lab (I also added salinity and water temperature to these readings after the first sampling trip). The process was straightforward, aided particularly by the skills of Felix, the pilot of the vessel (an employee of the port authority, and a good friend of mine) and his ability to keep the boat steady and stationary whilst sampling was underway.
Dependant on the condition of the tide, and therefore the total depth of the water, we could collect between 20 and 40 samples in total.
To add a further baseline comparison sample, each time I collect samples from the estuary I also collected a water sample from Bramber Village, approximately 8 Km upstream. Whilst Bramber is still a tidally influenced part of the River Adur, Its distance from open ocean meant that it would provide an interesting comparison to the suspended sediment levels found further downstream.
So the sampling began in May 2018 with regular trips to the river expected over the next eight to ten months.