Iowa City Press-Citizen: Money to Help Watch Water

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sensors monitor Iowa's water levels

By Josh O'Leary
Iowa City Press-Citizen


Over the past two years, the Iowa Flood Center has deployed 129 sensors along waterways across the state with the goal of better equipping residents for future disasters.

Now the University of Iowa-based center hopes to install 100 more of the electronic devices and it is asking for Iowans’ help to do so.

The Iowa Flood Center, which the state established in the aftermath of the historic floods of 2008, has kicked off a new Fund-a-Sensor campaign to raise money to monitor stream stages in places currently not being tracked.

For every $3,000 the center raises, it can deploy one sensor, which costs that amount to make. The public is able to vote on where the new sensors will be placed through the center’s website,

Carmen Langel, director of development and communications with UI’s Hydraulic Research Laboratory where the Flood Center is housed, said the center has received a positive response from Iowans who appreciate being able to use the Web-based system to monitor real-time water levels. Previously, the only river level information available was for the select waterways monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Langel said this fundraising campaign, which is being run by the UI Foundation, gives more Iowans a chance to help establish new sensors closer to them.

“If they realize they don’t have a sensor upstream from where they live, or they want another one, they could then donate to this effort in order to potentially get another sensor in their area,” Langel said.

Iowa Flood Center director Witold Krajewski said there is a need for more extensive monitoring of Iowa’s rivers and streams.

“The IFC stream-stage sensors provide valuable real-time information about water levels, allowing Iowans to be better informed and prepared for future flooding,” Krajewski said in a news release. “We believe this extra measure of preparedness can save property, resources and lives.”

The solar-powered devices, which were developed at UI by a group of engineering students, are fixed to bridges and transmit the data via cellphone technology to a publicly accessible Web server.