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Major Irish river now "wired" to detect pollution incidents
06 October 2009
Marine Institute - Foras na Mara
Clean water is an essential element of healthy human life, which is one of the driving forces behind the European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD) which was adopted in 2000 and which Ireland is obliged to uphold. However, upholding the Water Framework Directive is expensive, since it requires Ireland to undertake a comprehensive programme of chemical analysis of its rivers, lakes and seas on a regular basis using what the EU demands to be comparable methods, both of sampling and analysis, that can be used with good accuracy and precision so that differences among water bodies and trends can be detected reliably.
Sending out technical staff on a regular basis to sample and analyse water from rivers and lakes in all weathers using conventional sampling and laboratory methods can be difficult and prohibitively expensive, as can the cost of non-compliance with the EU Directive.
So imagine the excitement generated by news of a project to develop a network of sensors that can be placed at strategic points along any river or lake to automatically analyse the water they contain at regular intervals, whatever the weather and beam the results directly back to a laptop on a 24/7 basis.
This is the foundation of the DEPLOY project, an important collaboration among the National Centre for Sensor Research at DCU, the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, the commercial partner Intelligent Data Systems and the South Western River Basin District. Working together they are studying the best ways to deploy, maintain, continuously collect environmental and water quality data and evaluate the effects of long-term sensor deployment on water quality monitoring systems and sensor data from a number of sites, and disseminate the findings to the widest possible audience.
The DEPLOY project began planning and station selection and design in August 2008 and the five fixed stations along the River Lee in Cork, which will continuously collect water quality and environmental data for more than one year went live in April 2009. The deployment aims to demonstrate sensor network capability in collecting real-time water quality data. The demonstration sites chosen were designed to include monitoring stations in five zones considered typical of significant river systems.
The River Lee is one of the largest rivers in southwest Ireland with a total catchment area covering approximately 1500 sq km, it rises in the mountains near Gougane Barra to the west of Cork and flows into Cork Harbour some 85 km to the east. The chosen sites are near; the source, in a reservoir, in the main channel of the river, adjacent to joining tributaries and finally in the estuary which is tidal and partially saline. Tidal influences in the R. Lee provide interesting physico-chemical data that show temporal changes in water quality and variations in these regular parameters can indicate anthropogenic influences in the riverine system.
Data collected and its interpretation and analysis is an important part of the development and validation of a sensor monitoring system and the data collected will allow the relevant agencies to monitor and respond adequately and efficiently to spatial and temporal change in environmental and water quality, such as a pollution incident.
It is also envisaged that the deployed multi-sensor systems can act as a "live" platform for parallel projects (funded elsewhere) and as a test bed to implement and evaluate water quality monitoring systems and deployment infrastructure (wireless data transfer mechanisms, novel sensors, sensor interfacing etc.) required to meet the demands of the Water Framework Directive.