Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA, 8 May 2006 — Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have developed an innovative system for obtaining important water-quality information on a near real-time basis and at much less expense than current methods. Using photographic images from a satellite and hand-held multispectral camera, researchers in the College of Engineering’s department of biological and agricultural engineering have built mathematical models that accurately predict sediment loads and nutrient content in Beaver Lake, the source of drinking water for more than 280,000 people in Northwest Arkansas.
“Remote sensing technology provides several advantages for any group responsible for the ecological health of a body of water,” says Indrajeet Chaubey, UA associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering. “Now we can monitor the entire lake, not just one area where you take a water sample. We can do this with much less expense because we don’t have to process hundreds of thousands of water samples through the traditional lab process. Until now, we’ve had very limited capability to monitor what is happening on a real-time or near real-time basis.”
Chaubey leads a team of UA ecological-engineering researchers and students who for many years have traveled to remote locations on the lake to gather water samples, which must be taken to a laboratory for analyses of pollutant concentrations. Results of those analyses are often not available until a week after the sample is taken. As Chaubey said, the new technology should help researchers gather information without physically taking water samples from every nook and cranny of a river, reservoir or lake.