Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Civil Engineering (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. L. Stetson Rowles


Access to safe water is vital to public health. While developed countries like the United States are recognized as having reliable and safe water, many small water utilities struggle with supplying consistent water quality. Technicians of these utilities will periodically test water samples from the influent and throughout the distribution system. However, this laborious and costly process does not capture sudden changes in influent water quality due to environmental conditions or pipes breaking in the distribution system. Here I show how an Arduino-based sensor can be used as a real-time, low-cost monitor of water quality parameters. Specifically, I developed a module to measure conductivity, temperature, pH, and turbidity. This module was deployed over several trials in a stream on campus. The longest continuous deployment was 24 days. During these deployments, measurements were taken with standard water testing equipment and data was correlated to environmental conditions. I found that the conductivity, temperature, and pH sensors are consistent with standard testing methods. However, the turbidity sensor did not provide accurate readings, possibly due to poor accuracy at low levels. Our results help to elucidate opportunities to deploy low-cost sensors as well as highlight the need to develop more accurate turbidity sensors. In addition, educational modules were developed and posted on an open-source web portal. These modules along with an international partnership will help to make these tools more accessible to underrepresented communities. Overall, this work has the potential to be adopted by water utilities as a real-time monitor of water quality.

Thesis Summary

Small water utilities with limited funding in the United States struggle with supplying consistent water quality. Here we show how an Arduino-based sensor can be used as a low-cost monitor of water quality parameters. This work has the potential be adopted by small water utilities to monitor water quality.