Open Source Urban Hydrology Sensor Bootcamp

August 7 - 9, 2019

Location: University of Michigan | Ann Arbor, Michigan


Branko Kerkez
University of Michigan


While most of us reside in urbanized environments, urban watersheds remain some of the most understudied hydrologic systems. In part, this is driven by the complexity and overhead associated with sensing across the urban landscape, which exhibits complex flow and water quality dynamics as well as various interconnections between man-made and natural components. In this workshop, we will take the lessons learned in studies of “pristine” and remote hydrologic systems and adapt them to studying urban watersheds. The workshop lessons will present an end-to-end solution, all the way from low-level sensing, to high-level could-hosted data services.

Specifically, the workshop will cover:

  1. Sensing: How to program open-source cellular data loggers. How to connect sensors and store readings. The sensors will include, but are not limited to, flow, soil moisture, precipitation, temperature, and water quality.
  2. Data Services: How to stream data to the “cloud” using simple-to-deploy real-time data platforms that have been developed as part of the CHORDS EarthCube project. How to interface these data streams directly with the CUAHSI’s data portal. Participants will also learn about “adaptive sampling” or how to remotely control their sensor nodes to measure only during “interesting” periods.
  3. Mechanical assembly: How to assemble sensor nodes, select batteries, solar panels, drill enclosures and field-proof equipment. Participants will assemble an entire senor node from scratch and prepare it for deployment.
  4. Real-world deployment: Participants will deploy their sensor node in a real-world urban watershed. Breakout groups will be formed based on the students interest, and will include:
    • Stream/River Stage: Participants interested in flow/flood measurements will learn how to assemble and deploy a low-cost stage measurement node to collect data similar to those measured by USGS gauging stations.
    • Water Quality: Participants interested in urban runoff and water quality, will learn how to deploy a wireless automated sampler, which will be programmed to collect water quality samples during storm events.
    • Soil Moisture and Precipitation: Participants interested in watershed science (or green infrastructure) will learn how to deploy a rain and soil moisture sensors to estimate infiltration and runoff.
    • Flow control: Participants interested in “smart” water systems and urban water infrastructure, will learn how to deploy a smart valve, which can be controlled remotely to change the flow of urban water in real time.


  • No prior experience is needed, but some programing knowledge is a plus.
  • Participants will acquire the core skills necessary to effectively deploy reliable sensor networks upon completion of the workshop.
  • A laptop with MS Windows is preferred.