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USGS scientists develop "Robowell" to monitor ground water

May 08, 2000

USGS scientists in Massachusetts have patented a robotic ground water monitoring technology, nicknamed "Robowell." The Robowell technology automatically measures the water level and measures ground water quality on a regular schedule at a ground water monitoring well. Results are transmitted to a human supervisor using radio, cellular-phone modem, or a satellite link.

This robotic system is designed to measure well water quality using the same techniques that a human sampling crew would use, but because this robot "lives" at a well cluster it can monitor water level and water quality much more frequently than is practical for human sampling teams.

This device is programmed to let a human operator know when conditions have changed sufficiently to indicate that local water quality has changed. The robotic system has been tested at four sites including a highway, a sewage infiltration facility, an experimental ground water cleanup test site, and the septic system for Walden Pond State Park. At each site, Robowell provided valuable information about the movement of monitored elements in ground water.

At the experimental contaminant cleanup site, the robot used a computer voice modem to inform a project chief that an expected plume of contaminated water had arrived so that she could begin sampling the water manually. That sampling provides for a comprehensive laboratory analysis to determine the success of the clean up efforts.

"We expect that this technology may be useful as a scientific tool and for an early warning system for the protection of public supply wells and for site monitoring at known or potential sources of contamination such as landfills or industrial sites," said USGS Chief Hydrologist Robert Hirsch.
-end-
Information about the technology (including information about the patent and published case studies), as well as contacts for licensing this and other technologies through the USGS Technology Enterprise Office are available at: ma.water.usgs.gov/automon/

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, contribute to sound economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources, and enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.

In-depth information about USGS programs may be found on the USGS home page at http://www.usgs.gov. To receive the latest USGS news releases automatically by e-mail, send a request to listproc@listserver.usgs.gov. Specify the listserver(s) of interest from the following names: water-pr; geology-pr, geologic-hazards-pr; biological-pr; mapping-pr; products-pr; lecture-pr. In the body of the message write: subscribe (name of listserver) (your name). Example: water-pr joe smith.

Note to editors: Greg Granato is available to demonstrate the Robowell tool. Call 508-490-5055.

US Geological Survey

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