The nation's drinking water may soon find itself under the watchful eye of a network of underwater robots designed to protect the drinking water supply from sabotage.
With these robots in place, researchers would no longer have to collect water samples in bottles and take them back to the laboratory for analysis, eliminating this expensive, time-consuming and sometimes dangerous practice.
By summer 2005, Syracuse University researchers will have installed a dozen robotic sensors to form the largest underwater monitoring system of its kind in the country and one of the most extensive in the world, principal investigator Charles Driscoll, a professor of environmental systems engineering at Syracuse, told the Associated Press.
The project will cover more than 25 miles of the Seneca River and five connected lakes, including three municipal drinking water sources.
"Not too far off, though, this technology will be able to serve as an early warning system, a network of robotic sentinels, to protect our waterways from terrorist attacks," said Steven Effler, executive director of the Upstate Freshwater Institute, a partner in the project.
"This is promising technology," said Ben Grumbles, who heads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's water office. "The key to protecting our water resources is real-time monitoring. These robots present an exciting opportunity to accomplish that."