Data flows from Lake Wendouree

A new project harnessing smart technology is not only helping Lake Wendouree users make the most of their visits, it’s also changing the way the lake is managed and could provide a template to help the City of Ballarat work smarter across its operations.

City of Ballarat Supervisor Lake Wendouree Bernard Blook and Manager Business Improvement Matt Swards with the smart bins at Lake Wendouree

The Digital Living Lab concept has prompted the installation of sensors, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), in and around the lake to measure a range of atmospheric and water-related data including the current temperature, wind speed and wind direction.

Pedestrian counters anonymously measure how much the areas surrounding the lake are being used at any given time.

Additionally, solar-powered, self-compacting bins for landfill waste and recycling have been installed at the lake’s adventure playground, with sensors sending alerts when the bins are nearly full so they are collected only when they need to be.

Data from these sensors is collected through The Things Network, a purpose-built network that is also available for public use.

The information is published online via an open data platform, allowing lake visitors to plan their next picnic, fishing trip, walk or run or go rowing and yachting with accurate and timely information about the conditions at the lake and surrounds.

City of Ballarat Supervisor Lake Wendouree Bernard Blood says the lake’s climate can vary considerably from those at the Ballarat Airport, where Ballarat’s official weather data is recorded.

“I know we’re only talking about three or four kilometres, but the weather at the airport can be very different to the weather around the lake,” Bernard says.

The data has benefi ts for on-water users too. For instance, access to wind direction and speed allow rowing crews to better judge their performances.

While all of that information might help visitors to make the most of their next visit to the lake, access to live real-time data is also shaping how Ballarat’s most renowned piece of open space is managed.

A new era

For the past decade, recycled water has been added to Lake Wendouree from November to March to counteract evaporation and ensure the lake is deep enough to support on-water activities in lower rainfall months.

Until recently, working out exactly when to add the water involved the manual recording of lake levels from a depth gauge and referring to historical records.

Now, sensors deliver real-time information about conditions on the lake continuously.

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“We’re able to monitor air temperature, along with the water levels to forecast evaporation trends so that we know the best times to deliver the supply of additional water to the lake,” Bernard says.

The same data can help predict growth rates of the lake’s aquatic plants, allowing better planning for weed cutting, and a greater understanding of the lake’s
ecology.

People counters around the lake will, over time, reveal the highest use areas of the precinct, allowing maintenance to be better targeted, and assist with
planning for big events like Springfest.

The high-tech sensors and the network which supports it have been funded through the Federal Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program and the City of Ballarat.

Federation University has also contributed funding for the open data platform, which will provide a way for not only the City of Ballarat but also other organisations to publish data to generate more insights.

City of Ballarat Manager Business Improvement Matthew Swards says the project is about piloting technologies and seeing which measurements could be used in other areas the managed by the City of Ballarat.

“It’s about connecting technology with the urban space. The elements that are successful out of this we will look to roll out across the city,” Matthew says
“It’s about starting small and scaling.”

The City of Ballarat’s new data platform is launching soon. Follow us on facebook to find out more.