About the Drain Detectives program

The purpose of the two-year Drain Detectives project (2018–20) was to:

  • trial innovative, low-cost approaches such as citizen science and open-source sensors to monitor dry weather flows in drains
  • better understand and inform management of stormwater drains posing the highest risk to beach water quality in Port Phillip Bay.

Drain Detectives monitored beaches in:

  • Sandringham
  • Black Rock
  • Beaumaris
  • Mentone
  • Mordialloc
  • Canadian Bay
  • Dromana
  • Rosebud
  • Rye
  • Blairgowrie.

The Victorian Government’s Port Phillip Bay Fund funded the Drain Detectives program. EPA Victoria led the program. 

The Drain Detectives program ended in April 2020. 

How Drain Detectives monitored and protected our beaches

Type of monitoring

Pollution from stormwater drains can affect water quality at our beaches. Drain Detectives helped to determine the extent of drain flows during dry weather at ten beaches. To do this, multiple ways of recording data were used:

  • The general public took photos and observations of stormwater drains using a data collection platform from their smart phones. The photos showed the drain flow, and observations of depth, colour and odour. Drains where we were recording observations were marked with a sign. 
  • Trained citizen scientists did a simple water quality test for ammonia at the same time as they recorded observations. Ammonia is a broad indicator of faecal pollution. 
  • Water quality and depth sensors installed in storm water drains leading to the beaches were used to supplement citizen science data.

These chosen beaches were known to have water quality that didn’t always meet the standards for swimming. The project ran during summer when people were most likely to use beaches. 

The program detected two drains with regular dry-weather flows using data from citizen scientists. 

View of Mentone foreshore

Reporting platform and sensor equipment

The platform used by Drain Detectives for data collection was Survey123 for ArcGIS. At each beach, signs at the carpark, and as close as possible to the drain prompted beach goers to this online data collection platform.

We used the following sensor technologies for the Drain Detectives program. The sensor housing, testing and development, installation and maintenance was managed by Monash University (www.bosl.com.au).

Sensors were installed by Monash University in drain pits upstream of drain outlets to the Bay. The selected pit had to be accessible (for example, not on a road and not locked) and at a higher elevation than the drain outlet to avoid saltwater intrusion (tidal effect).

Hardware Model Purpose
Absolute pressure and temperature sensor Sparkfun MS5803-14BA Depth measurements
Absolute pressure and temperature sensor Sparkfun MS5803-14BA Temperature measurements
Electrical conductivity sensor Monash University Conductivity measurements
Arduino board TinySine Tosduino UNO R3 Controller/data logger
3G/GPRS/GSM shield TinySine SIM5320E Data transmission
7.2V 10.05Ah high-capacity Li ion rechargeable battery Panasonic LICB-18650-2S3P-HC-R Power supply

Occupational health & safety

In-person group training of citizen scientists was conducted at beaches. A refresher training was provided for citizen scientists through a training video in the second year.

Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) guidance and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements were provided to trained citizen scientists in their instruction sheets for monitoring.

OH&S prompts were included in the data collection platform that citizen scientists needed to acknowledge before collecting data.

For more information about the Drain Detectives program, contact our Recreational Water team.

Thankyou to our partners

Organisational partners

  • Monash University
  • Port Phillip Ecocentre
  • Melbourne Water
  • South East Water
  • Bayside City Council
  • Mornington Peninsula Shire
  • City of Kingston
  • Life Saving Victoria

Community partners

  • 1st/14th Brighton Venture Scouts
  • Cheltenham Secondary College  
  • Dromana Beach Patrol
  • Hampton Sailing Club
  • Kilbreda College
  • Rye Beach Patrol
  • Rye Yacht Club
  • Sandringham Beach Patrol

Reviewed 7 December 2020