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Cookbook for Open Hardware Sensors for Water Resources Management


About This Course

This course introduces the concept of Open Hardware, and is a direct contribution to the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science*.

In this course, students will learn about hydrological monitoring with Open Hardware sensors, to improve the management of water resources. The course is hands-on, and the goal is for learners to be able to build, maintain and deploy sensors for their applications in water resources management. It is aimed at hydrology practitioners who wish to more closely monitor water levels and other quantities in their region using Open Hardware.

The first part is an introduction to Open Hardware and its relation to Open Science, as well as the relevance of Open Hardware for hydrological monitoring, its benefits and challenges.

The second part introduces the Internet of Things for connected sensors and how communication of data is handled.

The third part introduces the technologies commonly used for Open Hardware, with a focus on the Arduino platform, before moving to a refresher of programming embedded devices and a hands-on exercise.

The next part sets the learner up to build a data logger for water resources monitoring in a hands-on exercise. In the fifth part of the course, the sensor is equipped with telemetry, and the students learn about the technologies for transmission as well as processing and storing the data. It also looks at the considerations when deploying the sensor in the field, including site selection.

The sixth and optional part takes the learner through advanced topics.

A set of quizzes are set up throughout the course, as well as a final graded case study development for a IoT setup using Open Hardware. After successfully progressing through all the tests, the learner will receive a course certificate of completion.


Learning Objectives

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of hydrological monitoring using Open Hardware
  2. Be able to build an Open Hardware data logger
  3. Be able to set up a system for remotely reading and storing hydrological variables
  4. Understand the challenges for deploying Open Hardware sensors in the field and making sensors networks operational.

Work Load

The course can be taken by learners with three different levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced, which have corresponding course materials. The course tests are designed for the beginner and intermediate levels only.

  • Beginner: able to use the Open Hardware loggers out of the box
  • Intermediate (*): able to make changes to the software of Open Hardware and tailor operation
  • Advanced (**): able to build your own Open Hardware logger hardware solution

Part 1: Introduction (approx. 1h)

  1. Welcome to the course
  2. The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science
  3. An introduction to Open Hardware
  4. The need for a Cookbook on Open Hardware for Water Resources Management
WEBINAR: Welcome to the course

Part 2: Introduction to the Internet of Things (IoT) (approx. 3h)

  1. What is the IoT?
  2. Elements of IoT
  3. Design of an IoT system
WEBINAR: Approaches to Wireless Information and communications technology (ICT) and Internet of Things in water management

Part 3: Overview of technology (approx. 2h/4h*/5h**)

  1. Principles of open source hardware
  2. The Arduino platform
  3. Hands-on 1: Basics of Arduino programming
  4. Introduction in C++ (*)
  5. Micropython (*)
  6. Advanced embedded programming (**)

Part 4: Developing an environmental data logger (approx. 2h/3h**)

  1. The Riverlabs example: background
  2. Hands-on 2: programming a data logger
  3. The Arduino code
  4. Hardware design principles and PCB production (**)
  5. More Resources

Part 5 (*): Receiving Hydrological Data through Telemetry (approx. 3h)

  1. Technologies for data transmission
  2. Arduino implementations
  3. Setup of bck-ends (Thingsboard, The Things Network)
  4. Hands-on 3: telemetry with the Riverlabs node (wifi)
  5. Site selection
WEBINAR: Field installation and application - An IoT network for Water Resources Management - La Iniciativa Regional de Monitoreo Hidrológico de Ecosistemas Andinos (iMHEA)

Part 6 (**): Where to go from here: advanced topics (approx. 2h)

  1. Power management and solar charging
  2. Memory management
  3. Encryption and security

Final Course Assignment

  1. Develop your own case study (peer-reviewed assignment)
  2. Score 2 proposals from your course colleagues
WEBINAR: Sharing of experiences from the participants of the course (best 3 to 4 case studies) and feedback from the evaluation of the course

Course Evaluation and Certificate

  1. Course Evaluation
  2. Course Certificate

Crosscutting material accompanying the entire course

  1. Online documentation on Riverlabs website (
  2. Github page further developed
  3. Hands-on kit
    • Riverlabs logger, including ultrasound sensor and PV panel
    • Feather M0
    • FTDI cable
    • Breadboard + jumper cables

Course Team

The Hydrology and Water Resources Laboratory at Imperial College London has more than a decade of experience in the design, implementation, and follow-up of participatory monitoring activities in a context of sustainable development. They are a founding member of the iMHEA network, which is an international network of water resources experts operating 51 catchments in 6 Andean countries.

As part of their commitment to supporting these monitoring activities, the Laboratory has developed a technology toolbox for open hardware-based monitoring solutions. The Riverlabs platform consists of a flexible fully open source logging system including automatic data transmission using a range of technologies. More than 300 Riverlabs-based systems are currently operational worldwide, to monitor hydrological variables such as river flow, flood thresholds, groundwater levels, air and soil temperature, and soil moisture.

The lab has a track record of building technological capacity and supporting open innovation in the Global South, supported by major grants from donors such as UK Research and Innovation, the World Meteorological Organisation’s Innovation Hub, USAID, and Swiss Re.

Key Course Academics

Wouter Buytaert

Professor Wouter Buytaert

Professor Wouter Buytaert is an expert on the impact of environmental change on the water cycle and its consequences for managing water resources and flood and drought risk. His work includes advancing hydrological process understanding and computer simulation, decision-support and the science - policy interface of water resources, and the link between water and sustainable development. He is working extensively in developing regions, with a particular interest in the Andes and the Himalayas.

His work is funded by a large variety of sources, including but not limited to the UK Research Councils, UK DFID, the European Commission, the European Institute of Technology, UNESCO, Interamerican Development Bank, World Bank, the Belgian Development Cooperation, companies and private donors.

Wouter is also a fellow of Imperial's Grantham Institute for Climate Change, editor of the EGU journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, and Specialty Chief Editor of Frontiers in Earth Science. He receives frequent invitations to speak in international conferences and meetings, both in an academic and a policy context. In 2022, he received the Darcy medal of the European Geosciences Union for his outstanding scientific contributions to water resources research and water resources engineering and management.

Wouter graduated with an MEng/MSc in Environmental Engineering from the University of Leuven, Belgium in 2000 and obtained a PhD from the same university in 2004. He joined Imperial in 2009 after positions at Lancaster University and the University of Bristol.

Alejandro Dusaillant

Dr Alejandro Dussaillant

Alejandro is an engineering hydrologist at UKCEH’s Hydrological Processes and Extremes group within the Hydro-Climate Risks science area. He has over 25 years’ experience of applied research on hydro-geomorphic systems from basin to local scales, using novel monitoring, data analysis and modelling to understand fluvial and catchment processes. AD has experience working on complex hydrological problems together with state agencies, industry and local communities. He has led projects on catchment science, floods and sediment transport, droughts and infiltration practices for groundwater recharge, and low-cost monitoring of rivers. AD´s role is to facilitate efforts on Working with Natural Processes / Nature-based Solutions UKCEH-wide. He collaborates in the theme with partners from UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Poland and Slovenia. He has supervised and co-supervised several PhD and MSc/MPhil students in the UK and abroad. AD is visiting scholar at, and Middlesex University. He presents his research internationally and nationally to scientists and policy makers. AD has authored and co-authored several peer-reviewed papers, book chapters, national assessments, and reports for public and private institutions.

Simon De Stercke

Dr Simon De Stercke

Dr Simon De Stercke is a postdoctoral research associate in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering section of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of Imperial College London. His research has been focusing on the intersection between hydrology and epidemiology, and he also works on research impact evaluation.

Simon received his PhD for studying the water-energy nexuses of Mumbai and London from an end-use perspective, using system dynamics. Before coming to Imperial College London, Simon worked at IIASA (the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis). He holds degrees in electromechanical engineering and environmental management.


Professor Ermanno Pietrosemoli

Ermanno Pietrosemoli is a full-time researcher at the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) unit of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) of Trieste. He has taught courses in wireless data communications and done deployments in 54 countries. His research interest focuses on affordable telecommunications systems, including those related with IoT. He was a professor of telecommunications at the Universidad de los Andes in Venezuela for 30 years. He was one of the founders of Escuela Latinoamericana de Redes (EsLaRed), an organization that has been promoting ICT in Latin America since 1992, and is currently its President. The Internet Society recognized Eslared’s efforts with the 2008 Jonathan Postel award and in 2017 inducted Ermanno in the Internet Hall of Fame for his trajectory.

Ermanno has published many papers and is one of the authors of the book Wireless Networks in the Developing World. Ermanno obtained his MSc degree from Stanford University and his Electrical Engineering one from Universidad de los Andes.

Marco Zennaro

Dr Marco Zennaro

Marco Zennaro coordinates the Science, Technology and Innovation Unit of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy. He holds a PhD from KTH - the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. He is also a Visiting Professor at Kobe Institute of Computing (KIC) in Kobe, Japan.

His research interests are in the area of ICT4D. More specifically, he focuses on IoT, wireless sensor networks and their applications in Developing Countries. The use of wireless sensor networks in developing regions has a great role to play not only to expedite novel solutions that help mitigate development problems, but also to facilitate research activities in crucial scientific areas such as environmental monitoring, physics of complex systems and energy management. He has organized workshops in more than 30 countries and has been Focal Point for the ITU Centre of Excellence in IoT, Big Data and Statistics. He has been a Staff Associate of the African Centre of Excellence in Internet of Things at University of Rwanda since its inception. In 2013 he was nominated as the Sensemaking Senior Research Fellow of the MIT International Development Initiative and has been a member of the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D since 2004.

Ben C Howard

Dr Ben C Howard

Ben is an environmental scientist with interdisciplinary research interests focussing on freshwater environments. His research seeks to understand how these systems function and how they are changing, and ultimately what this means for the services, opportunities and risks they represent to society. Innovative technologies, in particular using open hardware, are at the centre of Ben’s research, enabling vital data collection in challenging environmental and social settings. Ben is currently a post-doctoral researcher based in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London, in the UK. Working in the Pathways to Equitable Healthy Cities project, his current work investigates water-related hazards, like flooding and water pollution, in cities in the global south, with a particular focus on enabling equitable and effective adaptation


The course material is accessible to all learners, but learners with programming and electronics experience may benefit more from the advanced topics in the course.

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