The Problem

Aquatic environments serve vital roles in economies, cultures, and livelihoods of many. According to the United Nations, more than 3 billion people depend on the ocean for food. In aquatic ecosystems, water quality can greatly affect the delicate balance of the local ecology. If these discrepancies in water quality are not discovered, they can result in damage to the ecosystem, including the death of flora and fauna.

Damage to ocean wildlife can devastate those who depend on it. Additionally, the problems with pH, Turbidity, Salinity, and ocean temperatures are getting worse. In 2017, oceans were 0.3℃ warmer than they were in 2000, and this trend appears to be accelerating. As a result, more water is evaporating from the ocean, causing it’s salinity to increase, and the larger and more frequent storms caused by this increase in temperature is causing more sand and dirt to be stirred up, increasing turbidity. pH decreased due to ocean acidification, becoming 25% more acidic.

Our Solution

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The WaterWand is an all-in-one mobile water quality monitoring system designed specifically for the nonprofit environmental organization, Surfrider. Designed as a throwable PVC buoy, WaterWand utilizes Arduino technology to record pH, salinity, turbidity, and water temperature efficiently and inexpensively. The WaterWand is connected via bluetooth low energy to the WaterWand mobile app, in which the nonprofit volunteer can collect and assess real time data, which is geotagged with their phone’s GPS location. This mobile app on the user’s phone, when connected to the internet, delivers the data to an online cloud-based web application, in which anybody in the nonprofit can access via the internet. On the WaterWand website, users can view, download, and analyze water quality data and trends.

WaterWand provides an inexpensive and easy-to-use solution for water quality monitoring of oceans, lakes, and rivers. Using WaterWand, environmental nonprofits like Surfrider will be able to monitor the health of aquatic ecosystem, and take action in preserving local ecology and aquatic life.


Mechanical components


The housing of the WaterWand must be able to protect the delicate sensor within from the rough waters and sharp rocks that are present at many beaches of the Oregon. To do this, we decided to use 4 inch ABS pipe as the main chassis for the WaterWand. ABS pipe is designed for drainage and is waterproof, durable, and inexpensive. In order to mount the sensors to the chassis, WaterWand has an aluminum frame housed within the hull, and a custom 3D printed pipe cap that threads into a standard 4 inch cleanout cap for the ABS pipe. We also designed a cover cap for the 3d printed plug, to allow water in while testing is occurring. The sensors and electronics can be removed via the threaded plug for easy maintenance and repairs.