The cost of monitoring and detecting pollutants in natural waters is of major concern. Current and forthcoming bodies of legislation will continue to drive demand for spatial and selective monitoring of our environment, as the focus increasingly moves towards effective enforcement of legislation through detection of harmful events, and unambiguous identification of perpetrators. However, these monitoring demands are not being met due to the infrastructure and maintenance costs of conventional sensing models. Advanced autonomous platforms capable of performing complex analytical measurements at remote locations still require individual power, wireless communication, processor and electronic transducer units, along with regular maintenance visits. Hence the cost base for these systems is prohibitively high, and the spatial density and frequency of measurements are insufficient to meet requirements. In this paper, we present a more cost effective approach for water quality monitoring using a low cost mobile sensing/communications platform together with very low cost stand-alone ‘satellite’ indicator stations that have an integrated colorimetric sensing material. The mobile platform is equipped with a wireless video camera that is used to interrogate each station to harvest information about the water quality. In simulation experiments, the first cycle of measurements is carried out to identify a ‘normal’ condition followed by a second cycle during which the platform successfully detected and communicated the presence of a chemical contaminant that had been localised at one of the satellite stations.