INNOVATIVE technology is to be tested in Oxford to create a localised early warning system for flooding.

Thirty sensors will be installed to monitor water levels in the Thames basin and River Cherwell, which it is hoped will warn residents of imminent flooding.

Flood barriers had to be installed last winter in Abingdon Road and Botley Road, as minor waterways such as the Bullstake, Osney and Seacourt streams flooded.

The technology uses TV “white space” freed up by the digital TV switchover two years ago to provide wireless connectivity for the sensors.

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The sensors will measure water levels in the local area in real-time and send the data instantly over the Internet to provide residents with an up-to-date picture of affected areas.

Ben Ward lives in Grandpont and has experienced flooding many times.

He is pioneering the technology with the company he directs, Love Hz.

He said: “We encourage local individuals, groups and businesses to join in by finding the locations or adopting a sensor.

“The technology lets us understand our environment and share that information to make better decisions and responses as a community.

“It could become an early warning system, but it needs work. It’s about us building it from the ground up.

“It’s all about getting out there and collecting data so you can make decisions as a community.

“We’ve installed one sensor already in Hogacre Common and we have three or four more in the city, in Castle Mill Stream and a few other places.”

The Environment Agency already monitors levels of rivers in Oxford, but this new technology will focus on smaller streams.

Internet company Nominet is part of the pilot of white space technology and has funded the project.

Adam Leach, the company’s research and development director, said: “Oxford has already had major issues with flooding this year and it’s great to be able to apply the emerging technologies that we are working on, like TV white space, to offer wireless connectivity over large distances to tackle problems.”

Tom Ballance, a boatyard manager from Binsey, said: “If they could monitor along the A34 that would be brilliant, from Mill Stream to the Thames to Seacourt Stream.

“Botley Road has been fairly well covered, but Osney ditch is also missing.

“I followed the Environment Agency’s water levels last year and some of their sensors didn’t work so any technology that could be better would be great.”

Oxford Flood Alliance chairman, Peter Rawcliffe, said: “In principle it’s a good idea.

“We welcome any interest in flooding and anything that can help build up a more detailed picture that can help people to prepare.

“We’ll look forward with interest to how this scheme develops.

“The Environment Agency has monitoring systems on bigger streams and that information is on the Internet, but groundwater is certainly a problem in the South Hinksey area, and in some situations it could be useful.

“There’s no harm in having a more in-depth picture.”

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