Over the past 15 years, water pollutants, including heavy metals, have been dumped or spilled into the stormwater system in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) used to monitor water quality using traditional methods, but the data was spotty and intermittent.
Through a manual collection of water samples, EPA comptrollers confirmed the presence of contaminants, however without real-time data, they could not establish precise patterns that could identify potential sources and design measures to act preventively.
In 2020, the Australia EPA contacted Bio2Lab intending to develop a real-time monitoring solution. The solution not only had to deliver the data on the spot, but the hardware used had to function stably in a hostile environment. Bio2Lab contacted the IoT connectivity experts, M2M Connectivity, Australian distributors of Libelium’s water solutions.
Libelium water sensors as the ‘electronic nose’ of the solution
M2M Connectivity chose Libelium’s water sensors to act as the ‘electronic nose’ of the system. For data transmission, it supplied M2M One SIM cards that use 3G and 4G to transmit data to the EPA office in fifteen-minute intervals. The hardware was then integrated with their online data analysis platform, creating a consistent and clear picture of the water quality and profile.
The final solution included a Libelium sensor network that stretched for 10 km along the stream. “These are some of the harshest conditions sensors can be put under, subjected to anything that goes down the drain, and the hardware provided by M2M Connectivity has proven to be accurate, durable, and reliable,” says Steve Marshall, Bio2Lab Principal Scientist.
A proactive system for water quality monitoring
Now, IoT helps EPA improve waterway health by identifying numerous chemicals and pollutants in the stream in real-time, including copper, oil, and ammonia.
They are also able to establish patterns associated with the presence and absence of contaminants. For example, spikes in volatile compounds have been detected on specific days of the week and certain chemical profiles have given them insight into the industries that use them before they enter the waterway.
With the data in hand, the EPA goes from being reactive to proactive. Libelium sensors implemented by M2M and Bio2Lab helping to take action when harmful contaminants are detected, increasing the speed at which they notify businesses and the community.
“Our partnership with M2M Connectivity has created positive results for the EPA and led to the creation of the first real-time IoT detection system successfully applied to stormwater in Australia,” says Steve Marshall, Principal Scientist at Bio2Lab.