Clemson University researchers soon will be able to monitor water conditions along the Savannah River by simply looking at a computer screen, with the help of a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The scientists already had developed the environmental monitoring technology, but the grant announced Thursday will enable them to put it in place along the river's 312 miles, from the headwaters in North Carolina to the Atlantic Ocean.

"We're elated" about landing the grant, said ecologist Gene Eidson, who launched the Intelligent River project in 2007. He has said the technology will give the river a voice.

His team developed a wireless sensor called a MoteStack, which is roughly the size of a Rubik's cube. The device can collect and wirelessly transmit data including temperature, flow rate, turbidity, oxygen levels and the presence of pollutants. And the public can access that data online.

The researchers soon will begin inserting MoteStacks into buoys, and anchoring them to the river floor. External sensors will collect data.

The MoteStack will process the information and transmit it to Clemson's high-performance computing system. It will then be displayed on an interactive website, where water-resource managers can see it with just the click of a mouse.

Eidson said he's not aware of any other river in the country with a fully integrated monitoring system. "This will transform the way we monitor natural resources," Eidson said. "It will have worldwide implications for how we manage water in the future."

In the past, Eidson said, researchers had to collect data at the site, then enter the data into a database.

The information then could be made available online. But the new technology speeds up the process. The data now can be accessed in real time. "It's a new model at the core of which is computer science," Eidson said.

Clemson President James Barker said the Intelligent River research represents "a big idea worthy of Thomas Green Clemson, who founded our university to improve economic conditions through scientific research and education."

The same technology that is being used to monitor rivers, also can be used to monitor many other things, Clemson researchers said. In addition to the Intelligent River, plans are in the works for an intelligent farm, forest, building and road.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.