Innovations in water monitoring at Warragamba dam by WaterNSW

Algal fluorescence sensors, satellite imagery, and unmanned aerial vehicle technology are all part of the innovative approaches WaterNSW is rolling out to monitor water quality at Warragamba Dam.

Algal fluorescence sensors, satellite imagery, and unmanned aerial vehicle technology are all part of the innovative approaches WaterNSW is rolling out to monitor water quality at Warragamba Dam.

WaterNSW Water Quality Programs Manager Lisa Hamilton said these new technologies were part of ongoing attempts to improve water monitoring for the state’s biggest dam. It coincided with the innovation theme of National Science Week.

“Warragamba stores about 80 per cent of Sydney’s water. Improving our understanding of source water quality helps guide our operations and reduce water quality risks.

“We’re very pleased to be partnering with a number of different agencies and research groups to trial new technologies. That will improve our monitoring and water quality predictions – as well as the quality of water we supply to our customers,” Hamilton said.

A key focus of these innovative technologies is to monitor algae, which are a natural feature of aquatic environments. Most algae are harmless. However, some types of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) can be a risk to livestock. It can cause public health issues for humans in untreated water.

“One new approach we’re trialling for algae monitoring is using satellite and drone images to collect ultra-high spatial resolution imagery of algal occurrence events,” she said.

WaterNSW is working in collaboration with UNSW, CSIRO, SA Water and Water Research Australia. The project produces images that assist researchers in understanding seasonal patterns of algal occurrence across the lake. The research is helping to identify contributors to algal spread.

Supporting these images are water-level algal sensors installed on real-time lake monitoring stations in the Warragamba storage. These measure the fluorescence signal predominantly associated with chlorophyl-a, which is an indicator of algal growth.

“We’re constantly focused on finding better ways to monitor and improve water quality in our dams and catchments. It is part of best practice water management and to support our customers,” she said.

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