Scoping and Research and Development of an Unmanned Remote Controlled or autonomous Watercarft (ROV) to Collect Water Samples in the River

Project ID: 1753
Principal Investigator: William Bruninga
Research Topic: Water Quality
Funded Fiscal Years: 2017
Keywords: None

Research Question

How can LCR continue collecting water samples in an efficient manner using an ROV and reduce employee exposure to the safety hazards of aging cableways and on-water activities?
Water sampling is required to maintain compliance with Title 2 of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act of 1974. Aging infrastructure in the Lower Colorado region make water sampling an ever more hazardous activity for Reclamation employees. LCR employees have experienced work related injuries using the cableways, and there are inherent risks in every on-water operation. LCR proposes performing research to locate an existing ROV that can be modified such that a single operator can place it in the river and perform water sampling at locations on the Colorado River and Lake Mead. An ROV solution is expected to create a safer environment for Reclamation employees and create efficiencies by minimizing staff required to perform water sampling from on-water platforms, and reduce river travel times from suitable launch locations to measurement locations.

Need and Benefit

Need: Currently field technicians must perform water sampling either by deploying a small boat that requires two employees to work safely or use a hazardous man-basket cableway system to cross the river to acquire water samples for testing. A ROV for water sampling would improve safety by avoiding the need to have staff in a boat on the river or reservoir or using an antiquated cableway, serve as a replacement for the antiquated cableway system expected to be removed, reduce the number of staff required to conduct sampling from two to one, and reduce the time to collect the sample from three hours to one.
Benefit: Identifying a ROV suitable for single person use will eliminate the need for two workers to gather samples from river and lake location. A ROV would isolate workers from existing hazards.
Urgency: Existing cableways are nearing end of life and the office that maintains them has proposed ceasing maintenance. Lack of funding to determine alternate methods of in river/lake water sampling would increase work-hours required for the tasks by requiring launching a boat and transiting to sample locations, thereby increasing work hours for the tasks, and increasing employee exposures to water related accidents.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20