Water managers will require quick access to trustworthy, informative, and defensible data to achieve this aim. Climate change, population increase, urbanisation, land usage, and agricultural demand are all putting strain on water resources. Water scarcity (quantity and/or quality) and increased competition for water resources may emerge as a result of these changes, thus monitoring operations must take a more holistic approach, combining meteorological, hydrologic, and water quality data throughout a whole watershed.

On a global scale, climate-induced stressors are creating changes to all water resources, like increased average river and stream flows and decreased groundwater reserves. These water conditions can lead to more frequent and severe emergency events like stormwater or flood situations that communities need to prepare for, to ensure the safety of local lives and property. To combat these accelerated environmental changes, organisations are applying for smarter, manageable instruments to monitor water resources that deliver more data, collected more often, with real-time access to information.

The Demand for Hydrology Data is Growing Across the Globe

Whether on the country, city, or municipality level, there is an increasing need to see more detailed information about the water that exists within our communities.

Data is becoming denser and more diverse as new parameters and instruments are added to networks, with data being recorded more frequently. No matter the amount of data being collected, it is crucial to glean insights from that data. Without proper analysis, these utilities are missing out on information that could be critical to understanding the data and completing key tasks such as repairing aging water infrastructure or assessing non-revenue water losses.

Therefore, the first crucial step to smart water data management is utilising the best hardware, including sensors and datalogging tools, for the information that your organisation needs to better conserve and/or adequately manage water, closely followed by having the proper analysis system in place through a robust software to properly view and manage the data.

Setting Up Remote Environmental Monitoring Systems

The purpose of monitoring hardware, including sensors and dataloggers, is to measure and collect data from the field. Every year, technology becomes more advanced with robust capabilities that enhance data collection and validity, with some of the following stand-out trends:

• Non-Contact Sensors: These sensors are growing to be at the height of popularity because they can collect measurements safely above the water to avoid damage by large debris, sediment, and flash floods. Non-contact sensors are ideal for placement on bridges, piers, or mounting arms and above brackish or corrosive conditions.

o Surface water velocity radars have been gaining interest as non-contact options that can collect highly precise velocity measurements in open channels and rivers. These sensors will only continue to grow as a non-contact option over time due to their low power consumption and low maintenance needs.

o Impulse radar technology is a non-contact sensor technology utilised in key monitoring networks around the world to determine water levels in an accurate, energy-efficient way.

•    IP Cameras: These are an ideal addition for many application solutions, including flood monitoring, to save employee time and resources. When positioned at a station, they allow you to see your site in near real-time to verify current conditions and determine whether a visit is necessary.

•    Increased Data Validation and Flags: Having a remote way to check on equipment in the field is becoming increasingly crucial. Sensors can have built-in status indicators and data quality flags which leverage data from integrated sensors and internal sensor statistics, which all work to ensure data quality.

•    All-In-One Systems: It’s especially convenient when all required technology for a sensor is included in the device, like for the OTT ecoLog 1000 all-in-one device with the sensor and data logger included.

•    Increased Parameters: As organisations move towards data densification, both with data collected more frequently (temporal data) and collected in more locations (spatial data), it’s also helpful to collect increased parameters within water. These can include temperature, conductivity, and other nutrients concerning the quality of water, or surface water velocity and flow concerning the quantity of water.

•    Shifts in Datalogging: The emergence of customisation capabilities like Python scripting, as seen in the SUTRON XLink 500 plug and play modems, allow for finetuning based on the exact parameters and frequency of the data collected. Data redundancy also allows for multiple transmissions simultaneously, which is especially helpful during emergency water events where conditions can change rapidly. Real-time spatial and temporal data is important so that flood response resources can be applied effectively. Redundant telemetry systems and redundant hardware at each station help to ensure the provision of reliable data 24/7.

•    Shifts in Telemetry Capabilities: As extreme weather events increase due to climate changes, remote data transmissions that are reliable are becoming extremely important. Mobile transmission can be susceptible to inclement weather and bad service, which has led to increased demand for IRIDIUM® and Geostationary Satellites that provide stable and reliable transmissions of data for peace of mind. Transmission options that provide two-way communication are especially valuable as they allow users to check on the status of equipment and send configurations while away from the field.

Managing Remote Environmental Monitoring Systems

The technological challenges of remote data collection have become robust and more comprehensive than ever. As a result, a range of sensors, loggers, power supplies, and telemetry options are available to monitor and manage water data. The potential risk in the ease with which large quantities of remote data can now be gathered automatically is that users may become data rich and information poor. Software that can be quickly and easily configured are now able to provide data solutions that deliver the relevant data, where and when it’s needed most:

• Data Consolidation: Useful for data being collected from multiple sources, especially for complex stations with 3+ telemetry methods needed simultaneously. Third-party data can also be brought into view on the same centralised dashboard to aggregate collected data into one source of truth.

• Data Analysis: To unlock the full value of the collected data from any network size or type, made possible through easy visualisation, scanning, and QA/QC of data with rating curves, automated error detections, and intuitive correction tools that compare historic time-series or discrete data with a defensible audit trail.

• Data Sharing (Internal/External): Provides near real-time alerts, maps, and more to relevant internal and external stakeholders. Data sharing completes the journey of data from sensor to end user, to ensure decisions are made fully informed with the right information.

The advancement of software solutions means that users can be alerted when pre-specified conditions arise – fire, hurricane, heavy rain, etc. It also means that monitoring stations can be visually represented on maps, making it quick and easy to drill down to key data such as the reading from a single water level sensor. For example, water resource managers can integrate environmental data from multiple sources into a single platform like AQUARIUS. This is a toolbox for water managers, allowing them to control the quality of data, build better rating curves, derive statistics, and report in real-time to meet stakeholder expectations for timely, accurate water information. With software, location management is centralized and simplified with easy to search and filter identifiers. Existing systems where other field data exist can be synched for further efficiencies.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in Envirotech Online. The original article can be found at https://www.envirotech-online.com/article/water-wastewater/9/ott-hydromet/defining-smart-water-data-management-from-hardware-to-software/3039)