Developing low cost water level sensor networks for mountainous regions

CAW funding Jan21
Installation of lidar water level sensors

Mountain ranges are important ‘water towers’ supplying lowland communities with water for agriculture, industry and human consumption. However, monitoring of water resources in many globally important mountain regions (e.g. Andes and Himalayas)  is limited due to funding constraints, logistical challenges and lack of suitable technologies. To overcome this, new robust and cost-effective technologies are required and their use embedded in operational (governmental) monitoring agencies. 

To address this challenge, the World Meteorological Organization has funded a six-month project involving the University of Birmingham (Professor David Hannah and Dr. Kieran Khamis), Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, River Labs and The Indian Central Water Commission (CWC).

A network of low cost non-contact lidar based sensors will be deployed in the Himalayan headwaters of the River Ganges. These sensors are substantially cheaper than commercially available equipment (one tenth of the cost) and will have telemetry capabilities (ability to communicate over cellular network). The schematics for hardware and code for software will be publicly available, so local fabrication of sensors will be possible. A user-friendly software interface will also be developed and technical staff from CWC will be trained in sensor deployment, maintenance and quality control procedures. The long term aim is that once the technology has been successfully adopted by the CWC, lidar based water level monitoring can be introduced to other mountainous regions to provide information on vital water resources.

The University of Birmingham has a long-standing reputation for undertaking research that addresses both natural and social science aspects of water including hydrology, water policy and governance. Researchers are developing innovative and sustainable solutions to solve the water problems that societies are facing today. They explore the grand challenges in water research which require multidisciplinary approaches to address water resources in a changing environment from floods, droughts and resilience to the problems caused by human activities. Find out more about Water Sciences at the University of Birmingham