Project Brief

Washington’s Hood Canal is one of the many places in the country that the U.S. Geological Survey is using the CICEET-sponsored RIAS system to help coastal managers get a handle on the role of groundwater flows in coastal nutrient pollution.

RIAS is a commercially available technology that offers precise and near continuous analyses of groundwater flow in coastal waters.

Ground Truthing
Innovative technology tracks and maps the flow of groundwater into coastal waters

Nutrient pollution is a growing problem in coastal waters. Excess nutrients like nitrogen fuel harmful algal blooms that can lead to low oxygen conditions that impact the health of marine life and the economies that depend on them. Effective strategies to address this problem must account for all major sources of nutrients. In many coastal areas, groundwater is a major pathway for pollution transport that, until recently, has been hard to measure. Techniques that track naturally occurring radon as a proxy for groundwater had promise, but surveys using this approach were bogged down in time-consuming data collection and analysis.

With CICEET support, a research team from the Florida State University developed a technology to accelerate collection and analysis of groundwater location data, thereby providing a more efficient method to track and map groundwater discharge zones in coastal waters.

RIAS, the Radon Seawater Analysis System, measures radon levels by extracting radon-enriched dry air from sea water and sending it through a series of high-sensitivity radon-in-air analyzers. Promising field tests conducted in the Apalachicola Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, located in the Florida Panhandle, led to a full-scale radon survey along the Bay’s coastline. The results of this projects produced a detailed map of nearshore groundwater discharge in this area.

Working with Durridge, a private company specializing in instrumentation for environmental radon measurement, the researchers designed a data transfer protocol and user interface for the multi-detector radon system and associated sensors. That collaboration has resulted in a commercially available and widely used technology that offers precise and near-continuous analyses of radon carried by submarine discharge in coastal waters.

The Radon Seawater Analysis System (RIAS) is used to track and map groundwater flows around the country by organizations that include the University of South Florida, Florida State University, Duke University, Stanford University, the U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, East Carolina State University, and Louisiana State University. It is also being used abroad in countries including Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Israel, Azerbaijan, Thailand, India, Korea, the Philippines, Brazil, Japan, France, Jordan, Serbia, Montenegro, Georgia, Monaco, Portugal, Spain, Armenia, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Poland, and East Germany.

Learn More
Dr. William Burnett
Florida State University
T: 850.644.6703

Derek Lane-Smith
Durridge Company, Inc
T: 781.687.9556

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