Here’s an idea- wire rivers and other bodies of water to detect pollutants. As the below press release from the Marine Institute Foras Na Mara explains, scientists are doing just that at the River Lee in Cork, Ireland. Over 20,000 birds visit the region every year, often for breeding. The river supports salmon, trout, lamprey, freshwater pearl mussel, crayfish and more.  

(Trout Image: Hotblack)

Major Irish River Now Wired to Detect Pollution Incidents

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

program 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.

(Images: DEPLOY Project)

Sending out technical staff on a regular

basis to sample and analyze 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


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 analyze 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 Center 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.


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

Harbor 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.