Water Monitoring Innovation Thrives in Clusters

By Ryan Connair

close up of waterfallThis year’s National Water Quality Monitoring Conference is being held this week in Cincinnati, Ohio. The conference will bring together hundreds of professionals from the water industry to talk about water quality monitoring and share information about new monitoring approaches and technologies.

Cincinnati is a perfect venue for a conference on water monitoring. Not only is it home to the largest federal water research facility, it also serves as the hub of the water technology cluster Confluence. Covering the Ohio River Valley (southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana), Confluence “stems from an EPA initiative that recognizes the importance of harnessing regional expertise to encourage economic development, and environmental and human health protection,” according to its website.

Confluence’s goal is to connect water researchers, businesses, universities, and others in the region to exchange ideas and forge partnerships. The result is more innovative water technologies, including new monitoring technologies.

Here are a few of the water quality monitoring projects flowing from Confluence members:

  • The University of Cincinnati is working to establish a Miami Valley Groundwater Observatory. The Observatory would consist of a series of monitoring wells in the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer System. The wells will serve as a testbed for real-time, wireless water quality sensors. The data collected by the sensors will be useful for modeling groundwater conditions in aquifers and similar water sources across the country.
  • EPA is working with local startup Urbanalta Technologies and the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSDGC) to develop novel sewer flow sensors that can measure flow during heavy rains, helping to pinpoint the locations of combined sewer overflows.
  • MSDGC, Northern Kentucky Sanitation District 1 (NKSD1), and the consulting firm Stantec worked with EPA on an InnoCentive challenge on sensors for combined sewer overflows. Both sewer districts have expressed interest in testing the winning technologies—which will be featured in our next blog post tomorrow morning.
  • University of Cincinnati graduate student Jacob Shidler has started a company, Liquid, to continue developing an app that will let scientists enter water quality data on the spot and upload it to the cloud. His app will make it easier for many people to contribute to a single data set, empowering citizen scientists.

These are only a few examples of the innovative water quality monitoring work coming out of Confluence—and it isn’t the only water technology cluster in the United States. EPA is currently working with more than a dozen water cluster initiatives across the country. We’re excited to see what else they come up with!

About the Author: Ryan Connair supports EPA’s Environmental Technology Innovation Clusters program and works closely with Cincinnati’s Confluence.