Thomas Jefferson famously called the New York's Lake George "the most beautiful waters I ever saw." Now science will help to keep that natural beauty from dimming. The Fund for Lake George has teamed up with IBM and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) to roll out a wide range of sensors, robots, weather stations and other technologies to monitor conditions in Lake George, making it "the smartest lake in the world."
The sensors will keep track of everything from currents to wind conditions to nitrogen content. "We do not have a complete picture of Lake George scientifically, and we need it," Eric Siy, the executive director of Fund for Lake George, told Weather Underground. Although the lake is in much better shape than many others, it faces a wide range of potential threats, mostly related to human development. Pollution could cloud its famously clear waters, road-salt runoff could affect the salinity of the water, and invasive species such as zebra mussels need to be kept at bay.
Keeping the lake clean and safe is essential not just for the region's ecology, but also its economy. Tourism related to the lake brings in an estimated $1 billion a year.
Similar technologies have been implemented in other lakes, but this project — dubbed "The Jefferson Project" after the U.S. president — represents the most concentrated effort. "Because in some ways Lake George is small — it's 32 miles long — we have the ability to do a very complete and thorough instrumentation," Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, director of RPI's Darrin Fresh Water Institute, told Weather Underground. RPI has already been studying the lake for the past 30 years, but the new sensors will collect 10 times more data than previous systems, and it will be collected on a daily, real-time basis.
In addition to a wide variety of sensors, IBM will employ its technology to crunch the data generated on the lake and create computational models to study the impacts on the various conditions that are putting stress on the lake. IBM says this will not just help Lake George, but it will also help establish a model for how similar technologies can help other freshwater lakes.
Although the total budget for this project has not been disclosed, it is reportedly in the millions of dollars. All three organizations are contributing financially.
RPI released this video discussing the Jefferson Project and the importance of Lake George:
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