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Using sensor technology to develop a recreational contact warning tool for the Grand River, Grand Rapids, MI

The City of Grand Rapids is changing the iconic river that runs through it. Dams on the Grand River are proposed to be removed and the historic boulder rapids restored to improve habitat and enhance recreational opportunities. While the City monitors the water quality of the Grand, this collaborative project will develop a predictive system to ensure that river users can be warned about potentially unsafe levels of disease-causing microorganisms typically associated with heavy rainfall runoff.

The U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Water Science Center (UMid WSC), the City of Grand Rapids, with contributions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Urban Waters Federal Partnership program, began a multi-year project in May 2022 to develop a tool to advise users when bacteria concentrations in the Grand River likely exceed State of Michigan contact standards.

Water-quality instruments will be deployed on the Grand River from May through October each year to collect measurements of dissolved oxygen, conductance, water temperature, turbidity, fluorescent dissolved organic matter (fDOM), and tryptophan-like fluorescence. Water samples will be collected for analysis of E. Coli bacteria at the UMid WSC Bacteriological Research Laboratory in Lansing, MI. After three years of data collection, a best-fit model will be created that relates the water-quality instrument data to E. Coli concentrations. With the predictive model in place, a computer system will ingest the water-quality instrument data and warn recreational users when E. Coli concentrations are expected to exceed State of Michigan contact standards.

Links to the data can be found here:

 Grand River Water Quality Monitoring (


USGS Current Conditions for USGS 04118997 GRAND RIVER AT 6TH ST AT GRAND RAPIDS, MI

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