DEWNR unites with local uni to design new groundwater app

Date posted: 06 May 2013

Students at an Adelaide-based university, working in partnership with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, have designed an app to help more accurately record, check and share groundwater monitoring data.

A seven-member student team from the Carnegie Mellon University took just 90 days to develop the Water2Mobile software, which has now been tested and given a nod of approval by DEWNR’s on-the-ground staff.

The Mobile Groundwater Monitoring Pilot Project formed part of the student’s coursework under a collaborative program aimed at delivering practical software applications for government and private enterprise.

The software allows field staff to carry detailed information about the wells, including historical readings and data, on a mobile tablet.

DEWNR Chief Executive Allan Holmes says it’s a great result.

“Our department is responsible for reporting the state and condition of groundwater resources across South Australia and with so many sectors of the community, including mining and agriculture, relying on accurate groundwater information, it’s crucial we get it right,” he said.

“We welcome any new technology which makes it easier for our on-the-ground staff to do that and it’s particularly exciting to play a role in developing new approaches.”

DEWNR ICT Program Manager Aaron Osterby says the app is useful even in mobile and internet black spot areas.

“Staff will be able to save details about wells they plan to visit, including historical data, to make it is easier to access the information from the field. They can add new observations directly to the mobile device under clear, simple headings,” he said.

“This saves time and means they don’t have to carry large amounts of paperwork with them.

“The app also provides data validation to reduce entry errors, which is an important step to perform in the field to ensure any unusual readings are verified on site before heading back to the office – it could be six months or a year before a monitoring site is re-visited.”

Field information is uploaded onto SA Geodata, a central data base sourced by government and industry.

DEWNR’s project was selected from a range of IT and policy-based proposals.

Students were briefed by DEWNR in February, with a working app to be researched, designed, tested and delivered by early May.

Mr Holmes said the students should be commended not only for the high quality, product produced, but also the short time frame in which it was completed.

“Students had to first learn about groundwater monitoring and associated record-keeping processes, before they could design a user-friendly product suited to harsh outdoor conditions,” he said.

“This app has real potential for expansion and may also prove a step toward a more general tool for field staff to capture data wherever they are working in the state.”

The prototype will be officially handed over to DEWNR at 11 am on Monday 6 May at 220 Victoria Square.

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