Smart Lake Erie Watershed Initiative

Creating the most digitally connected watershed in the world

Blue and Yellow Sensor in the water

Cleveland Water Alliance has outfitted the Lake Erie Watershed with a state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure and hundreds of IoT sensors, making it the largest digitally connected freshwater body in the world. This network of sensors provides robust, real-time data to industry, utility, agriculture, maritime, research, and recreational interests across the region by enhancing our ability to provide functional, streamlined solutions for monitoring water quality in ever-changing conditions. Meet our Smart Lake Erie Watershed.

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Great lakes map
Lake Erie
Lake erie shape
25,667 mi²
9,940 mi²
12 Million Population
Great lakes shapes
The Great Lakes holds over 21% 
of Earth's surface freshwater.
Shallowest, warmest, most biodiverse
and most vulnerable of the Great Lakes
Warming temperatures, rising water levels and increased HABS.

Meet the Great Lakes' First Smart Lake Watershed

As the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie is not only the most biodiverse and bioproductive, but the most vulnerable to our region’s agricultural, community, maritime, and manufacturing dynamics. This provides us with a prime opportunity to assess and seek solutions to real-world water challenges faced around the globe.

The Smart Lake Erie Watershed serves as a world-class innovation testbed for IoT.

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The telecommunications infrastructure that we are building out over the Lake Erie watershed is establishing this Great Lake as the most digitally connected freshwater body in the world. This infrastructure includes LoRaWAN, a low-power, low-cost, long-distance data transmission supports high volumes of IoT sensors and devices for our Smart Lake and Watershed Initiative.

Hundreds of Smart Sensors deployed across open water, beachfront, and river locations, as well as inland ponds, creeks, and streams, provide a diverse and highly sophisticated data collection and decision support network. Our Smart Lake Erie Watershed programs enable early warning and real-time insights for industry, utility, agriculture, maritime, and recreational interests across the region. 

Smart Lake Erie Watershed At A Glance

Lake Erie watershed

Our Initiative

  • 200+ Sensors
  • Telecommunications network covering 12,000 square miles 
  • Real-time information about water conditions, contaminants, nutrients, and more
  • Data can be used for early warning systems, disaster response, recreational updates, and more
  • Provides opportunities to test, trial, and demonstrate critical cutting-edge technology for global freshwater issues

How can we use the data?

The Smart Lake Erie Watershed enhances our ability to provide functional, streamlined solutions for water quality monitoring of ever-changing conditions, including dangerous winds and waves, hypoxic waters, and toxic algal blooms. This infrastructure enables early warning and real-time insights for industry, utility, agriculture, maritime, and recreational interests across the Lake and its tributaries.

This technology allows us to:

Monitor conditions. Building a system that reports the real-time conditions of the Lake is critical. This data allows us to prevent harmful algal blooms from entering drinking water, accelerate responses to chemical spills, and many more critical applications that protect and improve the health of the Lake and those who call it home.

Gather, scale, and share data. Data is collected at many points throughout the watershed, generating a broader understanding of our freshwater system and providing insightful trends and patterns that inform researchers, policy makers, and water managers.

Remove barriers to innovation. We bridge the gap between the utilities and municipalities caring for our water and the innovators who create solutions to best manage this precious resource. We identify promising technology, provide the infrastructure for testing and honing it, and engage utilities to trial and demonstrate these solutions.

Create an economic impact. The water economy is one of the fastest-growing job sectors. We are leveraging this tremendous opportunity to establish our region as a global hub for freshwater innovation, harnessing the power of our area’s workforce, infrastructure, and expertise.

Work to solve freshwater issues around the world. The data that we gather, the research we inspire, and the technology solutions we generate have the potential to positively impact the Great Lakes region and freshwater systems around the world.

Accellerating monitoring & training through partnership

"With Cleveland Water Alliance's (CWA) assistance, Lake Erie and Aquatic Research Network (LEARN) researchers were able to deploy a sensor network and gather data from a focal H2Ohio Wetland Monitoring Program project in 2022. Supply chain issues had hindered our ability to gather continuous data in 2022.

However, thanks to CWA's partnership, we were able to utilize sensors and equipment that were already acquired. The availability of CWA's sensors allowed us to continue training staff (with guidance from LimnoTech) on sensor assembly, configuration, and installation. This led to data that we otherwise couldn't have attained in 2022.

Beyond this year, a partnership like this can facilitate greater disbursement of deployed sensors, leading to more data from a broader spectrum of projects around the state of Ohio to continue to pursue the goals of our monitoring program."

- Olivia Johnson
Research Coordinator, H2Ohio Wetland Monitoring Program

The Technology: Internet of Things (IoT)

What is IoT Tech?
IoT describes various physical objects that are equipped with sensors or other devices, connected through an internet or telecommunications network. CWA has worked to outfit a variety of buoys, marine infrastructures, and shoreline structures with sensors that provide data about the real-time lake and watershed conditions.

IoT as an Industry Opportunity

IoT technologies comprise a significant portion of the growing environmental monitoring and “smart water management” landscapes. According to a January 2022 report, the global environmental monitoring market – which includes sensors for monitoring air, water and soil – is projected to grow $3.4 billion by 2026. Other reports estimate that the global market for water-quality sensors alone is growing by a rate of nearly double that.

Further research projects that the global “smart water management” market will exceed $23 billion by 2027, at a growth rate of over 12%. This includes “sensors, smart meters, communication infrastructure, and software that enables two-way communication” supporting the water industry.

CWA is removing the telecommunications barriers to IoT technology and expect this technology and industry to grow even more because of the work we’re doing.

CWA'S Water Accelerator Testbeds

The Smart Lake Erie Watershed is available as a testbed for innovators of any size - from multinational corporations to independent innovators - to trial, test, or demonstrate their technologies.

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Man with gloves grabbing a sensor from the water