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From Postscapes:

The Floating Sensor Network is a project by researchers at UC Berkeley that provides real-time, high-resolution data on waterways via a series of mobile sensing ‘drifters’ that are placed into the water and monitored by cell networks and short-range wireless radios.

As the drifters are carried by the water, their GPS receivers track their movement while other on-board sensors monitor temperature and salinity levels. This data can then be used to estimate river flow and contaminant propagation in real-time and eventually be combined with other sensor data streams (USGS permanently deployed sensing stations, mobile measurements, etc)  to create “traffic maps” for an entire delta, showing the speed and depth of the water, and how contaminated the water is.

The long term vision of the project is to “put California water online, to create a system that will enable water managers and scientists to visualize the evolution of California’s water resources in real time.

The Sacramento River is the first testing bed for the fleet of sensors that can also be deployed in response to unanticipated events like floods, contaminant spills and levee breaches.

Learn more about the project here.

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