The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is today announcing that a coalition of Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and United States Geological Survey (USGS), is launching the Nutrient Sensor Challenge—an open-innovation competition to accelerate the development and deployment of affordable sensors that can measure nutrients in aquatic environments.
Nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – are essential for plant growth and for the production of food and livestock feed. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in our waterways, however, can be harmful to ecosystems and human health, and costly to the economy.
The Challenge launching today, which has been shepherded by agencies working closely with states, universities, and private-sector organizations, seeks to address a critical environmental problem by tapping into the expertise and creativity of our Nation’s innovators. This approach is consistent with the Administration’s broad use of public incentive prizes and open innovation to help address some of society’s toughest problems.
Because nutrients originate from a number of sources, including legacy contributions from years past, understanding where nutrients come from and how they move in waterways is a complex task requiring the sustained collection of high-quality data over many years.
The Nutrient Water Sensor Challenge is all about developing and deploying next-generation sensors that make tracking nutrients easier, cheaper, and more accurate. Specifically, the Challenge is seeking sensor solutions that:
Sensors that meet these requirements can be used by Federal and State agencies, researchers, utilities, and watershed managers across the United States to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels and how nutrients move through the environment—empowering both scientific research and more-informed watershed management decisions. Better sensors can also help Federal and State agencies, communities, and the private sector better track progress of their nutrient control programs and the significant investments they have made to reduce nutrient pollution.
EPA, NOAA, USGS, and NIST are working together with the NOAA-supported Alliance for Coastal Technologies to administer the Challenge and verify the performance of winning solutions.
Tamara Dickinson is Principal Assistant Director for Environment and Energy at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.