Deploying a smart sensor network for water cycle monitoring in the tropics.


Around ~70% of Australia’s freshwater lies in the wetlands, floodplains, rivers and aquifers of northern Australia. The management of the water resource will become critical as the effects of climate change start to be felt.  This project will demonstrate how technology can start to supply data from networked sensors to provide the basis for computational models and visualisation of water resources.

QCIF is working with Dr Le Blanc’s team at JCU to install an integrated hydrological observation network at the Mitchell catchment in Far North Queensland. The Mitchell River is one of the Queensland’s most significant river systems. The catchment covers 70 000 km² and includes both wet and dry tropics sub-catchments, and key hydrological processes (large scale flood plain; irrigation). It encompasses large areas undergoing major environmental changes that are characteristics of the broader Australian tropics such as savanna thickening, change in fire regime, and change in grazing practices.

QCIF support will be used to develop a pilot site in Far North Queensland (Mitchell Basin) to deploy and test a smart water sensor network made up of sensor boxes like the one viewable on the right. This network will be Mitchell of simultaneous near real-time monitoring of all the major water stores (vegetation, soil moisture, ground and surface water), rainfall and surface water quality using state-of-the-art remote sensors, wireless communication, database storage and the latest data analysis techniques. Such a monitoring network will become the first experimental deployment in a major water catchment in the Australian tropics.

Key technical deliverables will include:

  • 10 sensor nodes composed of 3 surface water/ground water sensors, 3 soil moisture probes, 3 sap flow sensors and a scintillometer with a micrometeorological station
  • A sensor island that uses wireless transmitters and receivers to interconnect all the sensor node into a single observation network
  • Data loggers for observation storage and transmission
  • Energy systems
  • Centralised software for optimal management & regulation of the sensor network
  • An on-line data retrieval and information production portal