Southern California environment news and trends

California water system monitored by UC Berkeley tweeting robots

Mercer 11666

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Water quality is serious business in California. In order to keep an even closer eye on what exactly is going in the state’s rivers, a research team from the University of California Berkeley has developed a fleet of aquatic robots known as the Floating Sensor Network that can not only monitor water quality, but also relay the results on Twitter.

As reported by Treehugger, 100 of the robots were released into the Sacramento River earlier this week, in order to measure the salinity, pollution and water flow of the essential Sacramento-San Joaquin water system, responsible for the majority of the state’s drinking water and irrigation supply. The ones outfitted with Android phones along with GPS systems are doing the tweeting.

"This is the way of the future," said Alexandre Bayen, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley and project supervisor to Techworld. "We're moving from an age when humans were deploying things and baby-sitting them to an age where you just put the robots in the water, they do their job, they come back or they call you if they have a problem."


Are electric bikes the future for San Francisco?

San Franciscans Alter Commute On 15th Annual Bike To Work Day

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

File: A sign reads "one less car" on the back of a bicycle at an "energizer station" at San Francisco city hall where bicycle advocates handed out food and drink on Bike to Work Day May 14, 2009 in San Francisco.

Biking in Los Angeles is a precarious business. Given our city’s legendary traffic congestion, maneuvering L.A. on two wheels is definitely not for the faint of heart. Even our own Mayor Villaraigosa felt the unforgiving wrath of street traffic when a short-stopping taxi sent him crashing from his bike to the pavement and ultimately to the hospital with a broken elbow back in 2010.

Up north in San Francisco, biking is additionally challenging given the famously mountainous landscapes. A simple errand to the grocery store at the bottom of the hill can quickly become a much trickier return trip. But what if that bike was electric? It’s the question being asked a new federal grant that will introduce shared electric bikes to the city by the Bay to see if they could potentially help ease traffic congestion and have an environmentally positive impact.