Better late than never, a large amount of inspiration for the Solar Sunflower project came from the Stroud Water Research Center, particularly this web page.
Image: Stroud Water Research Center
The image above from Stroud’s website illustrates just how far open-source consumer electronics have come; for a couple hundred dollars, you can build your own sensor network. This is something that was previously off-limits to most civic and non-profit groups—the commercial alternatives cost thousands of dollars. The freedom (literally) afforded by the low cost of these electronic components is important. Sometimes you only want to monitor for a short period of time. Sometimes you have no idea how a sensor will work until you try it out in the field. Sometimes you’ll need to customize your monitoring setup. Arduino and other similar microcontrollers are modular: Switch out the sensors, change the way you power them, try, fail, and try again.
Also worth shouting out is dontflush.me, another fascinating water-related project using real-time low-cost sensors. Arduino-powered sensors detect when a combined sewer overflow is occurring in New York City and lets viewers of the website know not to flush a toilet during these overflow events. (The logic is that flushing a toilet during an overflow would contribute more sewage to the overflow.)