Building a Smart Lake Erie Watershed

Building a Smart Lake Erie Watershed

There are sensors that measure water quality over a large area of ​​Lake Erie. An effort is being made to attach these sensors to buoys and other equipment in a way that will give more knowledge about problems related to the lake. This data may be useful to people who can address these issues.

Lake Erie is shallow. This means that pollution from industry, agriculture and urban runoff has a greater impact there than on the other, larger, deeper Great Lakes. The population density along the shores of Lake Erie is greater than along the other lakes.

There are also many people who enjoy the lake, boating, swimming, and fishing. It contains more fish than any other of the Great Lakes.

Paul Pacholski is president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. He says he and his colleagues rely on information from buoys in the lake.

“But it’s not just charter boat captains. I know a lot of private boat owners who also access information from these buoys,” Pacholski said.

These buoys are equipped with sensors that capture information about the water condition. They collect measurements of wave height, cyanobacteria prevalence, and water clarity. This is useful information when you are looking for the right place to fish.

“This saves you a lot of fuel and a lot of worry about headaches because you pretty much know what you’re getting into when you go out there,” Paculski explained.

But you can only get this information if you know the buoy’s cell phone number.

correct. The floats have a cell phone number. And people like Paculski have to physically text the buoy and get a text back. If the buoy is outside the cells, it is not in the interests of boaters.

Ed Verham is a Principal and Senior Engineer at LimnoTech and President of Freeboard Technology, a new water technology startup.

Lester Graham


Michigan Radio

Ed Verham is a principal and senior engineer at Limnoch and President of Freeboard Technology, a new water technology startup.

“We’ve had difficulty getting a signal from outside, and it’s mostly a cellular signal,” said Ed Verham, chief engineer at LimnoTech, based in Ann Arbor. It places the buoys in the water and keeps the sensors running.

When Fairham says there’s a challenge in getting a cell signal, he’s not talking about people getting a signal on their phones. He’s talking about the cellular signal that the buoys use.

Since there was no cell service in large areas of Lake Erie, there were only buoys to relay information about real-time water quality.

The Cleveland Water Alliance is working on an idea that would make it possible to power more buoys by ditching cell signals and switching to low-power radio signals connected to a buoy-to-buoy network. The data is transferred to the receiving device and then distributed on the Internet. The State of Ohio supports these efforts with grants.

“So we’re basically creating a regional Wi-Fi network dedicated to the devices. This data will come back to the Internet via a radio that we’ve installed at a university or on top of a tower,” Fairham explained.

Zach Gordon and Greg Cattrell of LimnoTech finish maintenance on scientific equipment aboard a Lake Erie buoy.

Lester Graham


Michigan Radio

Zach Gordon and Greg Cattrell of LimnoTech finish maintenance on scientific equipment aboard a Lake Erie buoy.

As we spoke, two of Fareham’s colleagues were busy cleaning sensors carried on a yellow buoy pulled alongside the boat we were on.

“Everything you see in front of it here with the buoy was paid for by the Cleveland Water Alliance and then we partnered with a couple of other stakeholders to add things like acoustic telemetry for fish as well as water quality testing equipment in partnership with the University of California,” said Zach Gordon, a mechanical engineer at the University of California. LimnoTech Company: “Toledo”.

Not having to rely on cellular signals will save money and will make accessing data much easier because it is automatically placed on the Internet for anyone to use.

Most of the data collected is for government agencies and therefore belongs to the public.

This wireless signal network is being built along the coast of Ohio’s Lake Erie.

During a speech at Ohio State University’s Stone Lab, Max Herzog, program director at the Cleveland Water Alliance, explained that they are building a smart Lake Erie.

“When we talk about the smart Lake Erie watershed, it very much borrows some of the core technologies and philosophies from the smart cities movement.”

Lots of sensors across a wide area and big data management could be applied to large watersheds like Lake Erie, Herzog said.

Max Herzog, program director for the Cleveland Water Alliance, speaks to Lake Erie stakeholders and journalists gathered at Ohio State University's Stone Lab about building a smart Lake Erie watershed.

Lester Graham


Michigan Radio

Max Herzog, program director for the Cleveland Water Alliance, speaks to Lake Erie stakeholders and journalists gathered at Ohio State University’s Stone Lab about building a smart Lake Erie watershed.

This long-term and large-scale network is not limited to buoys.

“The sensors could be on bridges. They could be on board stationary vessels. They could be inside creeks, creeks and waterways,” said Samantha Martin, the coalition’s director of communications.

These types of data are valuable to all types of people: the charter boat captains and boat drivers we talked about, as well as municipalities. Drinking water plant operators will be better able to monitor water quality from more places that may ultimately impact their water sources.

Not only will scientists have their own data, but they can see other data being collected by those public entities and other researchers. It can be used in unique ways that were not immediately expected.

“We’ve used it in search and rescue operations. You know, if someone flips over, they’ll be able to look at the wind speed and wave height to try to figure out where they are,” Martin said.

The bottom line is that this Smart Lake Erie network will allow anyone to access, in real time, public data from Lake Erie over the Internet.

The network is also a testbed for new types of sensors, Martin said.

“One thing we are working on identifying is technology, sensor technology, that can detect E. coli in real time,” she said.

Currently, water samples are being taken to the laboratory. This takes time. Meanwhile, children can swim in the water, which can make them sick.

Proponents of this network of sensors say that as more people become aware of the possibilities, the information collected will evolve.

They say it’s hard to imagine all the methods that could be used, but they believe they could be crucial to solving some of the challenges Lake Erie faces.

The network already covers 6,500 square miles of Lake Erie. The Cleveland Water Alliance plans to nearly double that coverage.

There is no doubt that other Great Lakes states are watching this closely.

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