Urban Stormwater Monitoring Goes High Tech

Management of Cairns' waterways is getting smarter, with new high-tech water monitoring sensors being installed to provide insights into the quality of urban stormwater run-off.

The Reducing Urban Impact on the Great Barrier Reef project will use smart technologies to monitor the quality of water flowing through one of Cairns' major urban catchments.

Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities Paul Fletcher said the project would include installation of up to 30 water-monitoring sensors that will deliver real-time data on levels of nutrients, sediments and other contaminants that may be carried out to sea.

“The world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the most iconic natural wonders of the world, which contributes billions of dollars to the Australian economy—this project will help protect it,” Mr Fletcher said.

“The data collected will help plan and improve stormwater infrastructure and water treatment processes to ensure urban water run-off is not harming the reef or its marine life.”

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the pilot project would ultimately improve the quality of water entering the Saltwater Creek catchment of the reef.

“This project is receiving $827,894 in Australian Government funding through the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program,” Mr Entsch said.

“We are pleased to be providing half of the project cost in partnership with Cairns Regional Council and the various funding partners. In the recently announced Budget the Australian Government committed $500 million to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef—one of the state and nation's greatest natural assets.”

Deputy Mayor of the Cairns Regional Council Terry James said the city was proud to lead the way in adopting new technologies for environmental benefit, especially since 2018 is the International Year of the Reef.

“To be a smart city is to be continually ready to accept new technologies as they emerge and apply them to the challenges we are facing,” Cr James said.

“For Cairns, protection of our environment is our top priority and it makes sense that our city should be setting the benchmark in environmental management.

“We are the custodians of this very special ecosystem, which is recognised globally as a place of natural wonder. We have a responsibility to protect the reef for future generations.”

JCU's Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Cocklin, said researchers from the University's Internet of Things (IoT) program would bring both local knowledge and cutting-edge expertise to the project.

“JCU's IoT engineers already use smart sensor networks to deliver real-time data from tropical field sites, enabling researchers to monitor marine and natural environments from anywhere in the world,” Professor Cocklin said. “We see great potential for this technology to help make Cairns a truly smart city.”

The Australian Government is committing 50 per cent of the funding for the $1.66 million project with Cairns Regional Council, James Cook University, Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership, Itron Australasia and FNQ NRM Ltd providing the remainder.

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