There are smart phones, smart cars and smart homes. And now, a team led by Virginia Tech professor Cayelan Carey continues to pursue what’s believed to be a first: a smart reservoir.
In 2018 Carey and her colleagues partnered with the Western Virginia Water Authority to develop and test their technology in Falling Creek Reservoir, the smallest of four reservoirs that distribute water to the city of Roanoke.
At different depths of the lake, levels of progressing darkness and density within the body of water, Carey’s team has set up sensors to take precise measurements. They are reading the temperature, the levels of oxygen, concentrations of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, the growth of algae, the presence of metals: factors that allow them to predict how the lake is going to behave over the next several days.
“We call it FLARE, which stands for forecasting lakes and reservoir ecosystems,” Carey said. “Probably the best way of describing it would be a water quality forecasting system.”
FLARE collects key pieces of data and generates a forecast. Once a day, the Western Virginia Water Authority receives that updated feed and looks ahead 16 days, which gives the treatment plant the advantage of knowing what to expect when it comes to water quality management.
Carey recalls her experience at the start, nearly a decade ago: “You make observations about what is going on in the water in terms of water quality, but it’s almost not useful at that point because you needed that information a few days ago if you were actually going to make a change or some type of management intervention.”