The Missouri Department of Natural Resources plans to install soil moisture sensors throughout the state in the coming months to aid in better prediction of flooding and better assessment of drought.
Scott Kaden, Missouri Geological Survey’s groundwater section chief, told the state’s Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group on Monday that 15 sites in the state have been selected to have sensors installed to report the moisture level and temperature of the dirt where they are to be buried.
The sites — none of which are in Mid-Missouri — are among the locations where there are already sensors collecting data on groundwater.
Kaden said each of the 15 sites will have five soil moisture sensors installed, with each sensor being buried deeper down in a pit to monitor moisture and temperature at different depths.
Each sensor costs approximately $400, he said, meaning each site costs about $2,000.
That would bring the total cost for sensors at the sites to approximately $30,000, not including installation costs.
Kaden later told the News Tribune via email that the University of Missouri Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration already collect soil moisture data in Missouri, but “it is our ultimate plan to combine all this soil moisture data and make it available in one easy to access location to better predict flooding and assess drought in Missouri.”
“The Iowa Flood Center has a large network that incorporates the soil moisture data collected into flood predictions. These sensors in Missouri are just the first step of attempting something similar here,” he added.
Missouri’s Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group, which was convened last year by Gov. Mike Parson to guide the state’s recovery after 2019’s flooding, was given a presentation in October about neighbor Iowa’s flood-monitoring system.
That system, which includes the installation of soil moisture sensors, as well as installing autonomous water level sensors on bridges, updating flood inundation maps for the state and implementing more than two-dozen community-based inundation maps, was part of the response to devastating flooding that hit Cedar Rapids in 2008, when the Cedar River overflowed into the heart of the city.
Kaden said the 15 new soil moisture sensors for Missouri would be ordered this week, and the plan is to install them “soon after we receive them,” dependent on the weather, “but the goal is to have these initial 15 sites operating by the end of June.”
More information about the Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group — including its interim report in December 2019 to Parson — is available at dnr.mo.gov/floodrecovery/. The group is tasked with submitting a final report and set of recommendations to Parson by the end of May.
The group’s next meeting is scheduled for 1-4 p.m. Monday, April 13 at the Lewis and Clark State Office Building, 1101 Riverside Drive in Jefferson City.