DES Water Quality & Investigations (WQI) team members on the Mulgrave River (Image courtesy of the Queensland Government)
Original Published Date: 
Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Full article issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS)

ARC-supported researchers at ACEMS, in collaboration with scientists at the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, have developed statistical predictive tools that could lead to the deployment of many more low-cost sensors in the rivers and streams that flow into coastal waters along the Great Barrier Reef.

The sensors will help to manage one of the biggest threats facing the Great Barrier Reef, which is pollution from land making its way to the ocean. The ACEMS researchers, led by Associate Professor Erin Peterson and including Dr Catherine Leigh, Dr Sevvandi Kandanaarachchi and ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Kerrie Mengersen, say that there are currently less than 50 long-term river monitoring stations providing information that informs programs related to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

"Right now, someone has to physically go to where the monitoring station is, get a sample, take it back to a lab and test it. If we can automate this process with the sensors, we can get a lot more frequent predictions of what’s happening,” says Dr Kandanaarachchi. 

At present, low-cost sensors aren’t yet able to show the two things that are most important in determining water quality—direct measures of sediments and nutrients. However the new statistical tools developed by ACEMS will take turbidity and conductivity data and predict levels of sediments and nutrients in the water. This will enable water agencies to predict levels of sediments and nutrients in rivers, and automatically plot how those values change over time. 

The project is a collaboration between ACEMS researchers and the Queensland Government that came together because of a need by Queensland Government to manage big data. A total of seven ACEMS researchers from QUT and Monash worked on it together.

Photo credit: 

DES Water Quality & Investigations (WQI) team members on the Mulgrave River (Image courtesy of the Queensland Government).