Soil Moisture Monitoring with Wireless Sensor Networks


Project Goal


In order to better manage surface water in soils, we must monitor properties such as soil moisture and temperature.

Obtaining real-time, fine-grained data is critical for success, but not possible with current wired data-loggers which are both expensive, and not able to react to significant events (eg. to increase sensing rate during a rain storm).  Wireless sensor networks are a new technology that promises fine grain monitoring in time and space, and at a lower cost, than is currently possible.


The aim of this project is to design, implement and field-test a prototype wireless sensor network for outdoor, fine grained environmental monitoring of soil water.  Such networks will be used for monitoring the effectiveness of salinity management strategies, irrigated crops, urban irrigation, water movement in forest soils.

Research Challenges


*  Reactive data collection e.g. frequent sampling during rain, infrequent sampling during dry periods

*  Software Engineering for environmental monitoring applications: a risk driven, iterative process

*  Robust Protocol design for calibrating sensors, data gathering, off-line reporting of field data

*  Software test and network management for implemented sensor networks





Rachel Cardell-Oliver, UWA Computer Science & Software Engineering

Keith Smettem, UWA Centre for Water Research and CRC for Dry-land Salinity

Mark Kranz, UWA Computer Science & Software Engineering

Kevin Mayer, CSIRO ICT, Canberra

Michael Martin, Water Corporation WA

Ian Marshall, University of Kent, UK


Photo: Banksia Woodland soil moisture field trial site, Western Australia




A Reactive Soil Moisture Sensor Network: Design and Field Evaluation, Rachel Cardell-Oliver, Keith Smettem, Mark Kranz and Kevin Mayer, in International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks, pp. 149 – 162, Volume 1, Number 2 / April-June 2005


ROPE: A Reactive, Opportunistic Protocol for Environment Monitoring Sensor Networks, Rachel Cardell-Oliver, EmNets 05, Sydney, May 2005


Development and Testing of a Reactive Wireless Sensor Network for Soil Moisture Monitoring, Smettem, Cardell-Oliver, Kranz, Mayer, Invited address to the European Geophysical Union, In Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol 7 01468, 2005


Field Testing a Wireless Sensor Network for Reactive Environmental Monitoring, Rachel Cardell-Oliver, Keith Smettem, Mark Kranz and Kevin Mayer, in International Conference on Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing ISSNIP-04, Melbourne, December 2004. A longer version is available as Technical Report UWA-CSSE-04-003


Case Study: Software Engineering for Wireless Sensor Networks

, Rachel Cardell-Oliver, Lecture June 2004 (9.8MB .pdf of slides)


Software Engineering a Wireless Sensor Network for Environmental Monitoring, Anna Parsons, Honours Project, December 2003 (574KB Winzip, Word)


Wireless Sensor Networks for Environmental Monitoring, Project Outline November 2002, Rachel Cardell-Oliver.  Early project proposal – historical interest


Field Trials


To see the soil moisture changing as it rains at Pinjar click on this link
(select dates from 25 June 2004 and choose XML, table or CSV format). 
Or see here for a graph summarising the first week’s data.


* On 25 June 2004 we deployed a prototype sensor network for soil moisture monitoring at Pinjar, just north of Perth WA.  The network is based on Mica2 motes and MDA sensor boards and uses the following components: soil moisture sampling motes, each attached to 2 x echo-20 soil moisture sensors; a rainfall monitoring mote using Decagon Echo-20 ECRN tipping bucket rain gauge; a data delivery mote, linked to a Superlite E IT GSM gateway; routing and gathering nodes for transporting soil moisture readings from the sampling nodes to the data delivery point, and rainfall information to the sampling nodes.

Soil moisture data is collected by our reactive sensor network at Pinjar, programmed in TinyOS by Mark Kranz, and sent back to a database in real time using a SOAP web service developed by Kevin Mayer of CSIRO and ANU. 


* In January-February 2005 we deployed 15 soil moisture probes to measure surface soil moisture during flooding and drainage events.


Page updated 26 April 2005

Paper requests, questions, comments, please email

Rachel Cardell-Oliver
School of Computer Science & Software Engineering

The University of Western Australia