On the way to an autonomous early warning system for water quality

The Wahnbachtalsperre (Wahnbach dem) nearby Siegburg (Nordrhein-Westfalen)

Climate change, changes in land use and the discharge of pollutants are threatening the quality of our surface waters.  The DIWA research project "Digital networked and interactive water quality monitoring", which was launched in autumn 2023, is developing a comprehensive, combined monitoring system for a wide range of water quality parameters with the aim of creating an innovative early warning system. Thus only by understanding the complex processes that determine water quality is it possible to develop customised, forward-looking and sustainable protection measures.

Extreme events such as heavy rainfall, dry periods and the special water quality dynamics they cause, such as algal blooms, often do not have a long lead time. It is therefore necessary to focus on monitoring systems that collect high-resolution data online and on site. A large number of sensor systems for water quality parameters are already available for online and on-site analyses.

The DIWA project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for two and a half years as part of the "Digital GreenTech - Environmental Technology Meets Digitalisation" funding measure under the BMBF's "Research for Sustainability (FONA)" strategy and aims to digitally network the existing sensor systems for algae growth, physical-chemical water condition, hydrodynamics and weather monitoring as well as online measurements of hygienic-microbiological water quality. A sensor for gold algae is also to be developed in view of the fish kill caused by algae in the River Oder in 2022. Water quality parameters from satellite data will also be included in order to recognise spatial patterns.

As part of the project, data recorded at specific points, linearly and spatially in the watercourse as well as historical data will be digitally linked and coupled with a discharge forecast. An early warning system for water quality based on artificial intelligence is to be developed from the connection and interaction of the data. In-situ sensors, satellite data and laboratory measurements will be implemented on a pilot scale together with the early warning system to be developed in the project at the Wahnbach dam in North Rhine-Westphalia. This development is complemented by representative measurements with the sensors used here in a watercourse. This makes it possible to demonstrate the transferability of the concept to other types of watercourse.

In the project, TZW is particularly concerned with online systems for recording microbiological parameters. Online flow cytometry allows the continuous quantification of the total cell count in raw water. An online device for recording enzymatic activity can also be used to record hygienically relevant bacteria. Furthermore, molecular biological methods for the detection of cyanobacteria are being developed and used to analyse practical samples.

Project partners are Wahnbachtalsperrenverband (WTV) (Project coordination), Universität Potsdam , bbe Moldaenke GmbH, Brockmann Consult GmbH, SEBA Hydrometrie GmbH & Co. KG, SYDRO-Consult GmbH and TZW: DVGW-Technologiezentrum Wasser (German Water Centre.

Further information
Project site (Link) 
Project homepage at WTV (Link)