According the latest infrastructure report card issued by the ASCE the number one and two sources of pollution to the surface waters of the United States are stormwater and combined sewage overflows, respectively. We have known this for quite some time. However, a large gap needs to be filled before these issues can be addressed in a meaningful way. That gap?

The same report that lists these sources as the biggest threat to our waters admits that tangible data on these systems is few and far between. Currently, most stormwater and combined sewage systems are evaluated based entirely on modeled data with little to no validation. Overflow volumes, pollution loads, and impacts to local waters are largely estimations. Even fixes and retrofits are planned and sized based on modeled data. Not to say that models aren’t great (who doesn’t love a great algorithm!), but the need for accurate, real-time data is clear.


Every community across the Country generates stormwater. In urban and industrial regions this drainage is known to contain heavy metals, toxic organics, and solids that cause environmental degradation. Rural regions are also contributors, a report recently published by Yale University states that the main source of oceanic dead zones is excess nitrogen running due to fertilizer use. These sources termed non-point source pollution have proven especially difficult to track.

Combined Sewage Systems

There are approximately 772 communities relying on CSO systems across the country. All of which are mandated to control these releases and warn the public when they do occur. This is very difficult to achieve when there is no real-time data being collected. New York City, for example, is home to the Nation’s largest CSO system, which is estimated to discharge over 6.5 Billion gallons of raw sewage each year. There is currently no system in place to track these discharges. The Great Lakes region attempted a comprehensive study to determine the effects of CSOs on local waters and (of course) found impacts, but also found that their findings were limited by under-reported values due to a lack of actual monitoring data.

Climate Change

The advent of climate change makes this need all the more urgent. Every region of the country is expected to see changes in the frequency and intensity of precipitation in the coming years. Crunch time is here! We can not plan for expanding needs if we do not have an accurate representation of our baseline conditions.


StormSensor recognizes these needs and has developed a suite of tools to help. We provide innovative, truly cost-effective data acquisition and analytics solutions to simplify infrastructure monitoring, streamline maintenance, and prioritize retrofits. Unlike traditional monitoring equipment, our Scute™ sensors are inexpensive enough to be deployed at multiple sites across a sewershed, for example, to monitor each combined sewage overflow (CSO) within a city system or to monitor a green infrastructure installation with multiple in and outflows. Scute™ sensors can be linked via our Terrapin™ network which allows for real time data access and custom notifications so managers can track what is happening throughout the system, accurately inform the public, and meaningfully plan for the future.

About the author

Suzie Housely

Talk stormwater with suzie@stormsensor.io Suzie has over a decade of experience in the Stormwater industry including both government and academic work. She leans on her experience to meaningfully interpret scientific studies and government policies to communicate a practical message. Suzie lives just outside Nashville, TN and gets outside whenever she can to explore nature with her husband and two small children.