Water Monitoring Buoys Could Warn of Future Flooding

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The University of Windsor's Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research has launched a pilot program in an effort to fight flooding.

Professor Trevor Pitcher says, with rising lake levels on the top of everyone's mind, the institute has deployed a pair of buoys along the LaSalle waterfront which should help in managing and predicting future flooding.

Pitcher says the devices are a first of their kind and will monitor water levels and wave action.

"This is going to provide real-time data. So instead of waiting for this event to happen, it's going to be providing you with data every minute of the day telling you as water rises or lowers or as the waves come in to crest over the people's properties. You'll have data on this on a real-time system which is very unusual. So it's a very unique system."

He says, if the buoys prove to be a success, more will be installed throughout all of Essex County.

"They're sending us live data every minute. So the idea, in the future, would be that if this valuable data is allowing towns and municipalities to make better decisions we're going to make it available to other groups over the years to come. So it is cutting edge data, but we're not clear yet on how valuable it is until the municipalities give us feedback on that."

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A water level and wave action monitor shown offshore near LaSalle on July 10, 2019 (Photo courtesy of @PitcherLab via Twitter)

Pitcher says the data could save people's homes or, in extreme cases, even their lives.

"This is not a LaSalle issue. It's obviously an issue around the entire Great Lakes basin. The analogy I like to give, it's almost like the tornado warning. With tornadoes and other natural disasters, having any kind of warning really allows to to plan more carefully to make good decisions about when to close streets or how to deal with properties that are being effected before it happens."

The monitoring devices were paid for through emergency funding from the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research to ensure the equipment was in the water as soon as possible.

Pitcher says the buoys are part of a larger, five year lake monitoring program being orchestrated by the university with the help of $16-million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.