Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018GA387B

Developing real-time sensor networks for monitoring stream water quality to improve water resource management: Year 2

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $17,997 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,464

Principal Investigators: Seth Wenger, Amy Rosemond, John Dowd, Phillip Bumpers

Abstract: State and local governments are tasked under the Clean Water Act with monitoring water resources to determine whether their designated uses (e.g., fishing, drinking water, recreation) are being met. A key challenge is detecting contamination events in a timely manner, particularly in urban areas that are characterized by multiple potential sources of impairment and pollution. Real-time monitoring of conductivity is a promising solution to this problem. Many pollutants associated with urbanization increase dissolved ion concentrations (e.g, Ca2+, Na+, NO3-), thus elevating specific conductance in streams. Recent advances now make it possible to construct inexpensive conductivity sensor networks that utilize cell phone and telemetry technology to transmit results to computers in real time. Here, we propose work for year two of a collaboration with the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCUG) to test and launch a real-time sensor network to monitor conductivity of streams in Athens, GA. In year one, we developed pilot sensors and identified signature patterns of conductivity that we believe are diagnostic of specific stressors. In year two, we will deploy a sensor network in streams in ACC to further explore the utility and practicality of real-time conductivity monitoring to detect pollution events and monitor water quality. The project will yield high resolution data with the goal to inform management decisions in ACC and support rapid detection and response to contamination events. The network could also be used to monitor aging sewer infrastructure to minimize the impact of sewage leaks into local streams and rivers. Ultimately, we believe this project can serve as a model for real-time monitoring programs in Georgia and beyond.