Smart water monitoring to safeguard public health and lake attractiveness

Many cities and urban areas rely on lakes to supply drinking waters to inhabitants, and support tourism and local business activities. Ensure accurate water monitoring is therefore a primary concern to prevent public health crisis and other adverse consequences for lake communities.

Two episodes had a wide echo in the US, as reported by Smart Cities Dive. In Summer 2014 a harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie, Ohio entered Toledo’s water systems and put drinking water at risk, so residents were warned to refrain from using tap water for several days. The bloom occurred as algae went out of control, but various factors came together including pollution and climate change, alterations of water flows and abnormal increase of phosphorus and nitrogen from lawns and agriculture.

In Lake George, New York the issue was the infiltration of salt degrading water quality and having toxic effects to wildlife. As the area grew with new construction and roads, there was an intensified use of salt to prevent icy conditions, but this ended up in widespread water contamination.

In both cases local communities suffered from poor drinking water quality and related public health risks, but the crises also impacted wildlife and lakefront economies. To fight harmful algal blooms and salt contamination, Lakes Erie and George turned to smart technologies: rather than choosing traditional methods such as water sampling and lab analysis, local authorities decided to implement efficient sensor networks for real-time water monitoring.

Beyond these two experiences, smart IoT sensors can be installed in lakes and watercourses to measure water temperature, acidity, levels of specific substances and other relevant parameters. Floating buoys and bank weather stations can provide additional data about environmental conditions, wind speeds, etc.

Intelligent sensor management platforms can collect and store all field data and allow advanced correlation through Artificial Intelligence or machine learning techniques. This paves the way to complex data models and predictive analysis, transforming water monitoring into an opportunity to improve water quality, better safeguard natural ecosystems and wildlife, while boosting lake area attractiveness.

Smart IoT technologies are mature enough. “It’s a matter of figuring out how can we get them implemented properly and how can we sustain the deployment and maintenance of those technologies, and continue to manage it in an iterative and dynamic way,” said Max Herzog, program manager at Cleveland Water Alliance, to Smart Cities Dive. “That really requires full-scale and deep collaboration with all the stakeholders and buy-in at a number of levels.”

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