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Water and Climate

Low cost water salinity sensor for smallholder irrigators in developing countries

Project Code: LWR/2015/035
Research Program Manager: Dr. Robyn Johnston
Project Leader: Richard Stirzaker - CSIRO Agriculture Flagship
JUN 2015
SEP 2016
Project Status: Concluded
Key partners
CSIRO Agriculture Flagship
Measurement Engineering Australia Pty Ltd


Depletion of surface and groundwater resources has resulted in farmers using irrigation water with unsuitable salinity levels. Farmers only know if water is too saline after it has impacted their crop. There is a need for a simple, low cost sensor that small scale farmers can intuitively use to decide whether or not water is suitable for irrigation or whether leaching is required. The purpose of this Small Research and Development Activity is to develop technologies for smallholder irrigators that will help them manage water on their farms.

Three low cost salinity measurement alternatives were evaluated:

  1. The SaltLight electrical conductivity (EC) meter developed to proof of concept stage by Measurement Engineering Australia (MEA).
  2. Commercially available, low cost EC wands in common use by the hydroponics industry.
  3. Commercially available open-source EC modules, compatible with the ‘Arduino’ microprocessor platform that can be the foundation of a low cost custom meter.