Ireland 'Wires' River to Detect Pollutants

The European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD), which was adopted in 2000, requires member countries, including Ireland, to chemically analyze their rivers, lakes and seas on a regular basis using comparable sampling and analysis methods, so that differences among waterbodies and trends can be detected reliably.

To manage this task, Ireland has embarked on the DEPLOY project, a network of sensors that can be placed at strategic points along any river or lake to automatically analyze the water at regular intervals, whatever the weather and beam the results directly back to a laptop on a 24/7 basis.

The DEPLOY project is a 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 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. 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 square kilometers (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 River 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.

The deployed multi-sensor systems also can act as a "live" platform for parallel projects 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 of the Water Framework Directive.

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