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Conservation authority developing new equipment with Lambton College

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

Water Resources Technician Emily De Cloet inspects a precipitation bucket. (Photo provided)

Water Resources Technician Emily De Cloet inspects a precipitation bucket. (Photo provided)

 The St. Clair Region Conservation Authority and Lambton Water Centre is in the beginning stages of developing and testing new equipment that is set to revolutionize how they monitor flooding in the area.


New technology comprised of mobile equipment is currently in the first phase of testing at the college – it not only can be use remotely, but can also transmit data wirelessly.


Water Resources Technician Emily De Cloet said a partnership with Lambton Water Centre came to fruition after the conservation’s water resources department had been in touch with the group.


“As a team we decided that with their focus on water systems and technology, and their access to professor and student expertise at Lambton College, it was a natural fit for this project,” De Cloet said.


She said a team at Lambton College is in the process of testing the communications features of the equipment, as well as measuring and calibrating the equipment to ensure it is correctly measuring water levels, rainfall amount and rainfall intensity. They also have to take ice into account, and how this could affect measuring water levels.


Their Flood Innovation Project consists of three components; De Cloet said the first involves the installation of a remote camera near the confluence of the north and east branches of the Sydenham River in downtown Wallaceburg.


“This is one of our major areas of concern for flooding,” she said. “The other two components of the project consist of a mobile precipitation bucket and a mobile water level logger.”


Current technology gets hourly data that can be accessed via phone, but De Cloet said the new innovation will allow them to get even more data by receiving information instantaneously over a wireless data network.


“We’ll be able to move this equipment around…and we won’t have to worry about a phone line going down,” she said, noting that what they use now are shed-like permanent structures that are located at critical points along the river. “So we can move the equipment to areas we’re concerned or interested about.”


With the conservation authority’s office being located in Strathroy, De Cloet said in the event of major flooding, they are constantly monitoring water levels and ice conditions across a large area stretching to the northern Chatham-Kent region.


“It takes staff over an hour to get to Wallaceburg,” she said. “By having a remote camera pointed at the river, we can monitor conditions from the office, after hours while we’re on call, and even re-watch video footage when analyzing the flood event once it has ended.”


She said that when the region is experiencing a flood, the more accurate data they can collect in real time, the better. De Cloet said things have changed when it comes to flooding; while the majority of flooding once occurred during the spring freshet, with climate change, it’s less predictable.


“Any time of the year there can be flooding, and we have noticed that we have several different kinds of events throughout the year,” she said.


De Cloet said that phase two of the project is set to roll out in June.


“Phase two is actually going to implement this equipment and test it out,” she said, adding that summer time testing will be beneficial because flooding is less likely overall.


“By having the equipment tested out in the summer months, if there are any issues we can go back and troubleshoot, and we don’t have to panic or worry too much about imminent flooding,” she said. “If there is a flood event, we do have our regular equipment, our stream gauges and other precipitation buckets that we are always using.”