A high tech grid of river sensors that can predict if and when the Ribble is likely to flood is being installed along the banks of the river according to this report in the New Scientist.
Those of us who live within the flood plain of the river can only welcome such intelligent sensors, which according to the article could give locals and government decision-makers earlier warning of impending floods by producing more accurate and concise data than existing monitoring systems.
Here's the explanation of how it works:
Each node is smaller than a human fist and powered by batteries and solar panels. Each is also accompanied by a computer unit about the size of a packet of chewing gum, which contains a processor about as powerful those found in a modern cellphone.
The sensors are positioned within tens of metres of each other and communicate through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas. This enables them to collaborate for data collection and processing tasks, creating a larger community computer. The same "grid computing" approach is used to connect computers at different locations for distributed research projects.
If the river’s behaviour starts to change, the network uses the data collected to run models and predict what will happen next. If a flood seems likely – because it is rapidly rising and moving quickly – the network can send a wireless warning containing the details.
Of course such devices can only warn about floods when they happen, they cannot prevent flooding from happening in the first place. The Ribble is a river that is known to be prone to flooding, and anything that increases the risk of flooding, such as building new housing estates in the floodplain, or a Ribble barrage that would cause silting on the riverbed and raise the level of the water table underneath our houses will be strongly resisted by residents living along the River's banks, and by the 'Save The Ribble' campaign.