Water quality monitoring in Merri Creek connects the community with their local waterway

Wednesday 31 March 2021

merri creek

New technology is helping our community to be citizen scientists collecting high quality data on our waterway health.

MCMC Waterwatch, the City of Whittlesea, the City of Moreland, the City of Yarra and Bio2Lab have been collaborating with RMIT University on a research-industry-community engagement project since mid 2020 to provide much needed information on the current ecological health of the Merri Creek.

The project, entitled 'Emerging technologies for water-resource monitoring and management in a rapidly changing world’ has been a fantastic opportunity for practitioners within local government, industry, community and academia in the water space to work together using technology to collect citizen-science water-quality data considering climate change and other potential factors (such as urban stormwater pollution) and engage with community.

Since November 2020, sensors in two locations on the Merri Creek in Lalor and North Fitzroy have been measuring water temperature and light every hour and turbidity (water clarity) every two minutes. The data are logged on the sensors so that RMIT University, MCMC Waterwatch (WW) volunteers, council staff and interested community members can access the data without having to enter the stream itself. The turbidity data can be accessed remotely via a dashboard, without to the need to physically go to the site. The light and temperature data can be viewed in near-real time from the creekside via Bluetooth to a personal device.  

The water quality of the Merri Creek catchment is constantly changing, due in part to rapid urbanisation in the upper reaches, climate change and high inputs of litter and other pollutants via the stormwater drain system.  Understanding those fluctuations is critical for local government to incorporate strategic planning and design responses that minimise or mitigate adverse effects in our catchments. 

Dr Catherine Leigh, freshwater ecologist from RMIT University, says that “managing waterways to ensure water quality and sustainable use while maintaining or restoring ecosystem condition is a priority concern for us all - industry, government and the community.”

She says “new technologies like small, instream water-quality sensors are revolutionising the way waterways are monitored and managed. The sensors can provide high-frequency, near-real time data for us all to ‘see’ and understand changes in water quality at more locations and it can do this more accurately than ever before. This engaging the community, and also helps prioritise and adapt management approaches for healthy, vibrant and biodiverse waterways.”

The Merri Creek is home to several indigenous species including the Rakali (native water otter), Growling Grass Frog and Golden Sun moth, some of which are locally endangered. RMIT & MCMC will be showcasing the water quality data collected and discussing the results and what they mean for ongoing ecological health of the Merri Creek at an upcoming webinar close to World Environment Day. To be on the invitation list for this webinar, please subscribe to the MCMC 'all event' community mailing list here.

Sensor installation and maintenance is courtesy of Bio2Lab, thanks to funds provided by RMIT University, the City of Whittlesea and the City of Moreland. The City of Yarra is a supporter of this project, with one of the sensors being located within the Yarra municipality.

The project partners acknowledge the Wurundjeri people, traditional owners of Merri Creek and its catchment, on whose unceded lands and waters we are conducting this project.

Find out more about MCMC's work here.



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