High water mark for innovative UQ flood monitoring system

13 Sep 2023

Original story posted on: UQ News

A tool developed by researchers at The University of Queensland that measures floodwater depth and velocity will be sold globally after it was licensed to a US-based company.

Associate Professor Simon Albert and Dr Nick Hutley from UQ’s School of Civil Engineering invented an automated system to provide real-time water monitoring during natural disasters, when it can be dangerous to manually measure rising water.

Dr Albert said the camera-based tool allows water resource managers to access data and make decisions remotely.

“The system uses advanced 3D stereo computer vision, machine-learning and cloud analytics to measure water height and velocity,” he said.

“Being non-contact, it avoids risk to personnel and equipment during a disaster and the need to travel long distances.”

Dr Albert said the tool had broader applications beyond flood risk and human safety, with other essential reasons to measure water.

“With the changing climate and growing population, it’s critical to be able to quantify our water resources,” he said.

“Knowing how much is flowing down our rivers can help balance the needs of irrigation, drinking water and environmental flows.

“We also need to better understand pollutants affecting the health of our river systems and flowing to our sensitive marine environment, particularly after extreme weather events.”

The tool has been licenced to Xylem Water Solutions and is already in use across Queensland, the Murray-Darling Basin, Tasmania and at sites in New Zealand, Europe and the US.

Xylem Australia and New Zealand Analytics general manager Josh Soutar said the UQ technology had huge potential for environmental, industrial process and wastewater management.

“A system that measures water flow and discharge in a non-contact method is really a bit of a holy grail,” Mr Soutar said.

“Because the technology is fully automated with either edge or cloud-based analytics, it provides the first tightly integrated end-to-end system of its kind.”

The licensing deal was struck by UQ’s commercialisation company UniQuest.

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said the commercial outcome was the result of an ongoing relationship with Xylem.

“I look forward to seeing this terrific UQ innovation taken up across the world,” he said.

The technology was tested in the field in collaboration with water suppliers, farmers and communities across south and western Queensland.

Images, video, interview and B-roll available on Dropbox.

Video: Timelapse 3D stereo computer vision measuring water depth and velocity at Rangitopuni Stream, New Zealand, in May 2023.

Media: UniQuest, Brooke Baskin, b.baskin@uniquest.com.au, +61 438 454 029.