Clemson 'Computerizes' the Savannah River

Monitoring devices will measure water quality and flow.

Published on: Nov 18, 2011

South Carolina's Clemson University has been awarded $3 million by the National Science Foundation to build and deploy a network of computer sensors to monitor the entire length of the Savannah River. Researchers will use small battery powered computers implanted into buoys that ride in the river itself while measuring vital statistics about the water.

The devices called MoteStacks are designed to collect data that will be used to improve water resources management that in turn will hopefully increase available water for drinking, recreation and industrial production, including farming. The computerized data collection is the brain for what designers call an "Intelligent River" program.

The Intelligent River seeks to transform the science and business of managing natural resources at the landscape-scale and reflects the worldwide quest for earth-monitoring technologies," says Gene Eidson, director of Clemson's Institute of Applied Ecology.

Eidson began the Intelligent River program in 2007 with seed funding of $1.75 million from Clemson Public Service Activities.

"Our goal is to utilize the Intelligent River technologies to safeguard our natural environment, the principal driver in South Carolina's strong tourism, forestry and agricultural economies," he says.

Clemson's team of researchers to implement the river project includes hardware developers, software engineers, river ecologists, visual effects scientists, forestry and natural resource scientists, information technologists and economists.

But an intelligent Savannah River is just the beginning. Similar plans are have already been conceived for an Intelligent Forest, an Intelligent Farm, Intelligent Buildings and for Intelligent Road concepts.

Budget cuts have been grabbing headlines but externally funded research expenditures are increasing for Clemson University. Clemson officials note this is the fifth consecutive year for increased research expenditures for the University.

Sponsored expenditures in 2010-2011 totaled $107.6 million, $10 million higher than the previous year, and the first time such expenditures surpassed $100 million.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency. It was created by Congress in 1950 and in 2010 had a budget of $6.9 billion. Read more about the NSF at