Five Ways to Implement Smart City Innovation in Storm & Sewer: Critical for Managing Climate Risk

Wastewater—Storm & Sewer—is behind the curve on the spectrum of innovation and digitalization (I know I mixed those metaphors…). Our infrastructure reminds us of this after every storm. In many communities, floods and heavy rains are becoming more frequent as the climate changes. It isn’t just a sewage problem either: it’s a mobility issue. Public health. Environment. Traffic. Access.

It’s all connected.

The potential value of digitalized Storm & Sewer is substantial, not least because (1) it is the last unmetered utility, and (2) flood and overflow impacts are experienced beyond the utility and across the community, impacting mobility, human and economic health, & the environment.

Consider the value of each of these in Storm & Sewer:

  1. Effective IoT. A network of sensors, drones (above and belowground!), cameras, and other devices provides a continuous stream of data on the status and performance of treatment plants, pipes, lift stations, regulators, outfalls, pump stations, and other equipment.
  2. Clear Insights. Dynamic visualizations display ambient temperature, air quality (including odor), pipe condition, water quality, volume, capacity, velocity I&I, discharge, load, vegetation, debris capture, and other data on operations, performance, or potential safety hazards.
  3. Accessible, Actionable Information. Tracking and managing above- and belowground flooding, backups, overflows, surface water impacts, and usage during storm events vs. dry weather. Information fuels action, whether it’s emergency response or daily maintenance.
  4. Automation Based on Data. Real-time controls require real-time data across systems. Accurate models require empirical data. Brilliant decisions require accurate and comprehensive insights that come from data.
  5. Bring in the Big Data. Analytics that use AI and machine learning combine this data with design limits of plants and equipment and external data such as weather forecasts and process it to determine appropriate actions, either manual or automated, immediate or forecasted. Short-term responses or long-term improvements.

StormSensor - Blog - Five Ways to Implement Smart City Innovation in Storm and Sewer Critical for Managing Climate Risk - Image 1

It’s already happened in the power industry, which exhibits significant correlations to the water/sewer industries:

  • CapEx increases and utilities have to spend more to upgrade aging infrastructure and harden systems against climate risk (sound familiar?)
  • Sophisticated customer expectations are set by growth in tech companies
  • Accelerated technological advances drive rapid cost declines, which fuel growth of deployment technologies and disrupts the incumbents.

In fact, the ideal power company has real-time situational awareness of its generation, transmission, and distribution assets.

StormSensor - Blog - Five Ways to Implement Smart City Innovation in Storm and Sewer Critical for Managing Climate Risk - Image 2

As a result, power utilities see reduced operations and maintenance costs; improved system efficiency, reliability, and resiliency; longer asset lifetimes; improved energy trading decisions; reduced fuel waste; lower carbon emissions; and better visibility into cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

StormSensor - Blog - Five Ways to Implement Smart City Innovation in Storm and Sewer Critical for Managing Climate Risk - Image 3

In order for these changes to be successful in the Storm & Sewer industries, we need to combine digitalization with innovative technology and innovative business models.

Doing so allows us to effectively address the smart city space—each aspect of which excludes the most critical overriding element: Climate Risk.

Climate risk impacts every aspect of a community; it therefore impacts every aspect of a smart city.

While treating everything within our communities (including our smart cities!) as interconnected—and everything as impacted by our overarching climate—is not a common approach right now, I believe that it will be mandatory within the next decade.

At StormSensor® we believe that people can create thriving communities only with a comprehensive understanding of and adaptation to climate risk, both now and in the future.

As long as enough people believe alongside us, together we can make a great difference in our world, and thrive with its innumerable and variable changes

About the author

Erin Rothman

Talk stormwater with With more than 15 years of environmental consulting experience, Erin observed so many opportunities for innovation in the stormwater industry. With those in mind, she founded StormSensor to enthusiastically embrace new technology to help solve the problems of an age-old industry.