Water infrastructure in cities is complex and requires proactive management to optimise function. The scale and distribution of assets across municipalities requires affordable systems which can trigger alerts. Systems underpinned by low-cost sensors could meet increasing monitoring needs: more assets, more often, and at a better resolution. However, low-cost sensors require appropriate testing to assess their performance and optimise their use. Here, we focus on low-cost water level sensors, often considered as the main monitoring parameters for water-related infrastructures. We developed a platform and testing protocol to assess the suitability of low-cost sensors. We assessed the performance of three widely used low-cost sensors: laser-ranging, ultrasonic-ranging, and pressure. Our main results showed that the ultrasonic sensor offers the best price to accuracy ratio, and the pressure sensor provides the highest accuracy while still at a very low cost. Our platform and protocol provide a standardised testing and calibration method which can be applied to any sensor. The platform can be used to gather and share results, to enhance community knowledge and encourage the use of new (low-cost or not) sensors. The development of low-cost sensors is an important step toward the wider use monitoring systems for water infrastructure.
We propose platform to assess the performance of low-cost water level sensors.
The platform assesses the range, accuracy, precision, and sensitivity to the environment.
Three widely used low-cost sensors are assessed: laser-ranging, ultrasonic-ranging, and pressure.
The ultrasonic sensor offers the best price to accuracy ratio.
The pressure sensor provides the highest accuracy while still at a very low cost