After almost a decade of pollution events impacting wildlife and water quality along one of Melbourne’s longest waterways, a local community group made the decision to approach environmental monitoring experts Bio2Lab. Working in partnership with M2M Connectivity, Bio2Lab has implemented a real time remote-monitoring solution which tracks water quality and pollutants 24 hours a day – ensuring pollution events can be identified and quickly addressed.
The project is paving the way for more advanced IoT water monitoring solutions, which could help protect environments and benefit cities, councils and communities around Australia.
From the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne’s southeast, Dandenong Creek flows for 53 kilometres down into Port Phillip Bay. The creek passes through large communities including Heathmont, Wantirna and Bayswater.
Over the past decade, the creek has been subject to pollution events resulting in mass fish deaths and low water quality. This has been attributed to industrial pollution from adjacent industrial areas.
Under the care of Melbourne Water and the EPA, the creek had been traditionally monitored using manual sample collection and lab testing, but as pollution events became more frequent and visible, the local community was keen to explore alternative options.
For the First Friends of Dandenong Creek community group, the key driver was to find a way to identify and respond to pollution events faster – reducing harmful impacts on wildlife or broader waterway ecology.
In 2019, The First Friends of Dandenong Creek succeeded in its application for a federal community grant to establish a pollution detection program. Working with the EPA, Melbourne Water, local councils, and as part of the Enhancing Dandenong Creek Program, they approached Bio2Lab.
Established by aquatic ecology experts from the University of Melbourne, Bio2Lab is at the forefront of environmental monitoring in Australia. Combining their expertise with M2M Connectivity, Bio2Lab identified a suite of hardware to detect pollutants, operate in the rugged outdoor environment, and enable data to be captured and wirelessly transmitted.
The final integrated solution brought together:
- Libelium’s Smart Water Pro module from its Smart Water | Plug&sense range
- Narrowband CAT M1 module (3G/4G)
- M2M IoT SIMs for wireless data transmission
- Dissolved oxygen sensors.
M2M Connectivity customised the hardware and firmware to operate in Australian conditions. It was then integrated with Bio2Lab’s online data analytics platform – creating a consistent and clear picture of the water’s environmental profile.
The final IoT solution was deployed at four high-risk locations spanning approximately 10km of the creek. Water quality data is transmitted every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. This includes pH, Oxidation-Reduction Potential (ORP), Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Conductivity and Temperature.
Uniquely, the live data is integrated and displayed on an online portal – created by Bio2Lab. The portal can be accessed by any member of the community. It is also used by Melbourne Water and the EPA.
To date, the portal has been used to establish patterns in water quality and to pinpoint potential sources of pollution. The system also sends alerts (SMS/email) when water quality changes, which has increased the community and respective water authorities’ ability to respond to incidents quickly.
Dr David Sharley, Founder and Director at Bio2Lab, said: “Working with M2M we have been able to deploy a rugged and reliable IoT solution which collects and transmits invaluable water-quality data using some of the best hardware available.
“This solution has opened up access to real-time data for the community, which has led to them working in close partnership with Melbourne Water and the EPA to deliver better outcomes for their local waterways.
“Our hope is that the success of this project stands as an example to other councils, and water and environmental authorities, around Australia of what can be achieved with the right technology and a progressive community-focused approach,” David adds.
The Bio2Lab-M2M Connectivity solution is simple to deploy with setup possible within 30 minutes. Other applications include water monitoring at mine sites, waste sites and large industrial facilities.