Buoy Pilot from Great Lakes Water Authority Deployed in Detroit River

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) in Detroit, using its Water and Field Services teams in partnership with LimnoTech and the University of Windsor, has deployed the first buoy to the Detroit River in an effort to enhance water quality monitoring of its source water.
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The Great Lakes Water Authority has deployed a water quality monitoring buoy in the Detroit River with the University of Windsor and LimnoTech. // Courtesy of Molly Young/GLWA
The Great Lakes Water Authority has deployed a water quality monitoring buoy in the Detroit River with the University of Windsor and LimnoTech. // Courtesy of Molly Young/GLWA

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) in Detroit, using its Water and Field Services teams in partnership with LimnoTech and the University of Windsor, has deployed the first buoy to the Detroit River in an effort to enhance water quality monitoring of its source water.

The buoy is equipped with a camera that provides 20-second clips every 10 minutes to GLWA’s Southwest intake (where it pulls water from to send to its Southwest Water Treatment Facility) and can serve as an early warning for changing water quality.

“Working with our partners to collect this data is critical for monitoring and assessing source water quality and proactive management before any issue is detected,” says John Norton Jr., director of energy, research and innovation at GLWA.

“This work exemplifies the regional collaboration envisioned when GLWA was founded and is a great example of how our innovative approach can use new technology to improve operational performance and provide value to our member partners.”

While there is no current cause for concern about algae blooms — a rapid increase in algae population in lakes and rivers — in the Detroit River, GLWA, which provides water to roughly 40 percent of the state of Michigan, is monitoring the water proactively.

It hopes the proactivity will help with the long-term optimization of its water treatment by reducing or eliminating facility shutdowns — which can increase costs — caused by contaminants from algae blooms.

Recently deployed on the Canadian side of the Detroit River as a pilot, the buoy measures oxygen reduction potential, conductivity, temperature, pH levels, total algae, and more. It is different from other buoy projects in its proactive nature, as most are installed in areas with active bloom issues.

“The data is critical for monitoring and assessing source water quality and to help us collect baseline and seasonal data which can detect if any diversion or unusual peaks occur,” says Andrea Busch, management professional of energy, research, and innovation, GLWA. “In addition, data will be used for long-term evaluation and optimization of GLWA’s water treatment system to ensure we continuously provide highest quality water.”

The vessel was provided by the Real-Time Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network (RAEON), a University of Windsor research collaboration funded by the government of Canada and deployed by LimnoTech.

If any changes should occur in the water quality, GLWA’s team is equipped to quickly address the issue, and at 1.6 miles from the intake, there is enough time before the issues impact a facility. After the pilot is completed, GLWA and its partners will be able to determine if there is a need to measure additional parameters and add more sensors.

“Our interest in the GLWA buoy stems from our work with water utilities on the Canadian side of Lake St. Clair where we are monitoring algae blooms to help ensure the safety of drinking water,” says Mike McKay, executive director and professor, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor. “While algae blooms in the Detroit River are not currently a concern, the proactive steps being taken will provide GLWA with increased monitoring for preparedness.”

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