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Water Quality Monitoring Buoy to track changes in NZ lakes

Photo credit: Otago Regional Council

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) and University of Waikato staff had recently installed a water quality monitoring buoy in Lake Hayes in New Zealand.

According to a recent press release, the buoy is the first of its kind in Otago and will help in tracking the changes in water quality in Lake Hayes,

Two more additional buoys are planned for Otago lakes, in Lakes Wanaka and Wakatipu.

About the initiative

The installation of the buoy is part of a wider work programme in Lake Hayes, including a turbidity study at Mill Creek, a catchment study, and upcoming consultation on options for remediating water quality in the lake.

The solar-powered monitoring buoy supplements the recently extended State of the Environment monitoring programme in the Upper Clutha Lakes region.

ORC commissioned the University of Waikato to build and install the high-frequency monitoring buoy in Lake Hayes.

As shared by the ORC Environmental Resource Scientist, the data to be gathered from this buoy will greatly improve in the understanding of how Lake Hayes is responding to the environment in both the short and long-term.

Understanding this will contribute in making informed decisions about remediation.

Water Quality Monitoring Buoy

The buoy is an autonomous water quality monitoring system and has two parts. These are:

  1. A weather station mounted above the water

The top mounted weather station measures data related to climate and weather, including wind speed and direction, air temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity, barometric pressure and rainfall.

  1. A water quality sensor package

This uses an electric winch and armoured data cable to raise and lower the sensors throughout the water column.

The winch-operated sensors move up and down the water column collating data related to water quality, including water temperature, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll fluorescence, phycocyanin fluorescence, turbidity, pH and conductivity.

One of the advantages of using this system is that water can be measured at multiple depths up to every 0.1 metre, thereby allowing an understanding of important water column variables such as the vertical distribution of algae.

The installation of the buoy is a good development for the community as it is a major step on the journey ORC is taking with the Friends of Lake Hayes to provide data that will assist in measuring remediation of the catchment and the health of the beautiful lake.

As reported, the solar powered monitoring buoys were developed by the University of Waikato by using hardware and software tools for collecting and analysing big data on lakes.

It can reportedly transmit quarter-hourly data in near real-time for a range of variables that include wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, and precipitation.

It has been previously installed in other lakes in the country and even internationally.


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