At StormSensor, we’re doing something a bit new. Area-wide networked monitoring. Lots of sensors, lots of data, all in real time, and all over the city. It sounds daunting, expensive, and maybe a bit luxurious for those of us used to running out to check a manhole or a vault to see what the problem is, dye tests, blocks and chalk to monitor the presence/absence of an overflow, and a whole lot of clipboards. And models. Nothing but models. Turns out that we’re all about to experience the luxury of monitoring our storm, sanitary, and combined systems from our desks. Not just at the treatment plants or the pumps, but everywhere. And not just theoretically. It’s a beautiful thing.
Systems change, seasons change, and flow changes along with it. Storm and wastewater systems—and the water that moves through them—are highly variable, and most of what happens is invisible until it goes wrong. We often manage through modeling, and ideally we’ll validate that model with a month of flow readings, checking off peak flow conditions. However, while the models account for any number of variables, they’re still assumptions. And they can’t account for tree roots, backups, overflows, or tailwater (they really can’t; you’d be surprised). With StormSensor, it costs the same to monitor for one month as it does for one year. You get the data every 5 minutes. You can track variability and performance given different storm events or tides or water levels. And one of our networks—fully loaded with all of the software features you could ever want—running a StormSensor for an entire year costs an average of 65% less than our competitors charge for a single month, most without 5-minute data that is also available in real time.
Absolutely! StormSensor was born out of stormwater consulting, and our team includes a number of civil engineers and stormwater scientists. It’s our bread and butter, and many of our alerts were developed specifically to support stormwater monitoring, including alerts for dry weather flow, stormwater flow, and critical depth.
Absolutely! StormSensor designed our sensors to be modular and work in almost any system, above- or belowground. All of the configuration happens in the software. We are working with our customers in wastewater to develop alerts specifically relating to I&I and sewer flow separations. In the meantime, all of the data are available so you can do your own analyses, or we can run targeted analyses at your request and for no additional charge. Think of it as free reporting on an ongoing basis.
While our minimum network size is set at 20 Scute™ sensors, we understand that costs can be tight, and our entire focus as a company is to make sure you have the data you need to create thriving, healthy communities. So we will absolutely work with you to find a network that fits your budget and targets your highest priorities first.
Absolutely! StormSensor’s Scute™ sensors are modular, so they can be installed in just about any configuration. In addition, many pipes surcharge, so—depending on placement—one depth sensor can monitor both the depth of water in the pipe and the depth of water in the vault or manhole. We can also set alerts for both. The same applies for outfalls, under bridges, at stormwater ponds. Based on the information you provide, we can tie each of the sensors into a GIS network and also report in elevation, not just depth, so you can see how surface waters impact flow within your systems.
The very first time we installed a sensor—and bear in mind this was our very first sensor, 3D-printed and epoxied—we bolted that thing so tightly to the system that it took some doing to pull it out and replace it. That was in Jersey City, a community that experienced billions in sewer overflows each year. Our sensor network was designed to work in Jersey City’s system and we overengineered the security. Now we make it a bit easier. For small pipes, we use tension rings designed in house. These can also be secured to the pipes using bolts instead of just the tension. For large pipes, we install mounting plates with several options for drilling into the sewer line. Because—as we learned—you never know when you’re going to hit a rock in that concrete. And then the sensors snap in place into the mounting plates, making them really easy to remove by humans, but almost impossible to remove by anything lacking opposable thumbs. We guarantee it!
Not everyone has, and for a few reasons. Cost is a big one; its only relatively recently that the Internet of Things has begun to catch on in the stormwater & sewer space. That means cheaper sensors, real-time networks, and easy monitoring. The other reason is because it’s just not been done before. But just think about every other utility; can you imagine not monitoring gas, electric, or water? Before digitalization began in those industries, everything was an estimate and a guess and highly manual. Basically, exactly what we’re dealing within in our industry today. We can fix that! Simply by digitalizing our own industry, one storm or sewer system at a time.
Certainly not! We recommend starting with highest-priority locations first, like areas where you know you have regular backups and overflows. Or where you suspect you have capacity issues because what’s happening in that part of town doesn’t match the model. And we can also run an analysis on your community for free! Using the StormSensor® Risk Index, we can highlight areas in you community that have the highest likely risk for flooding and backups, using parameters such as population density, elevation, and income. Here’s an example from a community that’s looking at where they need to install their networks and which goes in first. They wanted us to run the analysis; we do so in one of two ways. The first is by census tract; this is an easier sell to your city manager or anyone else outside of the hydrology space. And the second is by watershed. We model watersheds typically down to about 6 levels of detail (I explain this in another post), which allows us to really break down small areas/hot spots within communities. And then we run the analysis, getting you an output of relative risk across your town. You decide whether you agree, you can provide GIS files if you have them, and we can map out your network for you in no time flat.
Absolutely! In fact, we prefer that you focus on those locations so you see a really great return on your initial networks. We would be happy to run some specialized analytics just to make sure you’re getting what you want out of your data. And if you like those reports, we can build a feature into our software that makes it available to the rest of our customers as well.
Depends on what you want. If you’re just looking at compliance, and you have everything running smoothly on that end, then maybe you’re in great shape. If you have a schedule of cleanings and checks that work great and don’t require any unnecessary effort or truck rolls, that’s excellent. If you are considering building a stormwater model and you want to validate it, then a network could make sense. If you want to make your operations and maintenance more efficient, if you want to reduce flooding, if you want to find backups before they back up, if you want to accurately size your upcoming capital improvements, if you want to confirm efficacy of a new system….all of those can give you pretty amazing returns for a pretty low cost using StormSensor®.