Water resource managers can now put a buoy in a lake or stream and find locations of pollutants and other problems – as well as their sources – all for about $1,000, say University of Florida researchers.
Because the device is a result of UF research, the buoy is part of a technology platform fittingly called GatorByte. It’s far less expensive than conventional water-monitoring systems, which cost between $15,000 and $20,000.
The GatorByte platform includes the buoy and stations, which monitor rain and water level. They also trigger a technology that takes samples at set intervals after storms, said Piyush Agade, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Rain falls in many places, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the source of pollution.
“GatorByte associates a GPS coordinate with every set of water-quality reading. This allows users to quickly see how the water quality changes in time and space,” Agade said.
Agade co-authored a newly published paper that shows how GatorByte successfully found four basic indicators of water quality: temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and conductivity in Gainesville-area lakes and rivers.
Not only does it collect water-quality data, GatorByte uses a cellular signal to send that information to the cloud for real-time observation, said Eban Bean, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, Agade’s faculty advisor and a co-author on the new paper.
GatorByte also includes on-board data storage for backup if there is no cellular signal.
With their success in the Gainesville area, Agade and Bean now plan to use GatorByte in other parts of Florida.
“We are using 15 GatorBytes on short- and long-term deployments in Lake Rosseau in Dunnellon to further our research,” Agade said. “This will show how winds affect floating vegetation on the lake. These buoys will be deployed in other lakes spread across the state in the not-so-distant future.”
Those areas include Manatee and Sarasota counties.
GatorByte is a step forward to preserving Florida’s water quality, the researchers say. In addition to being a valuable commodity, fresh water faces quality issues. Industrial effluents, algal blooms, pesticide and fertilizer runoff contribute to water-quality woes, Bean said.
GatorByte could eventually prove critical for water-quality managers across the country. In the United States, almost 68% of fresh water comes from rivers or streams, UF/IFAS scientists say.
“Our reliance on fresh water underscores the need to protect these resources,” Bean said.
For more information about GatorByte, please contact Bean at email@example.com.