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Sat September 25 2021

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Researchers to monitor impact of stormwater on Barrier Reef

15 May 18 High-tech monitoring is to be used to gather information about the urban run-off affecting the Great Barrier Reef, with the aim of helping plan better water treatment processes.

The water monitoring project off Queensland, Australia, will use ‘smart’ technologies to monitor the quality of water flowing through one of Cairns' major urban catchments.

Minister for urban infrastructure and cities Paul Fletcher said the project would include installation of up to 30 sensors that will deliver real-time data on levels of nutrients, sediments and other contaminants that may be carried out to sea.

“The world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the most iconic natural wonders of the world, which contributes billions of dollars to the Australian economy—this project will help protect it,” Fletcher said. “The data collected will help plan and improve stormwater infrastructure and water treatment processes to ensure urban water run-off is not harming the reef or its marine life.”

Federal member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the pilot project would ultimately improve the quality of water entering the Saltwater Creek catchment of the reef. “The Reducing Urban Impact on the Great Barrier Reef project is receiving $827,894 in Australian government funding through the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program,” said Entsch. “We are pleased to be providing half of the project cost in partnership with Cairns Regional Council and the various funding partners. In the recently announced Budget the Australian Government committed $500 million to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef—one of the state and nation's greatest natural assets.”

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James Cook University’s acting vice-chancellor Professor Chris Cocklin said that researchers from the University's Internet of Things (IoT) programme would work on the project. “JCU's IoT engineers already use smart sensor networks to deliver real-time data from tropical field sites, enabling researchers to monitor marine and natural environments from anywhere in the world,” said Cocklin. “We see great potential for this technology to help make Cairns a truly smart city.”

The Australian Government is committing 50% of the funding for the AU$1.66m (£920m) project with Cairns Regional Council, James Cook University, Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways, Itron Australasia and FNQ NRM Ltd providing the remainder.

All infrastructure for the project will be in place within the next 12 months.

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