Blog  /  April 2018  /  Raise Your City's IQ: Get SMART with Networked Flow Meters and Sensors

Blog Post Teaser

Pollution from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and stormwater is prevalent nationwide.  It has been linked not only to degradation of natural water quality, but also to increased outbreaks of food and waterborne diseases, negatively affecting both human and aquatic ecosystems.  With more frequent storms, rising sea levels, and greater demand for utility services, communities across the country have struggled to keep up with the increasing needs of stormwater management, while technology has often lagged behind demand.  The advent of cost-effective, networked data sensors has begun to pave the way to a cleaner and safer future for those who embrace these “smart city” technologies.  Such systems have multiple applications not only on the sewershed-scale, but also for discrete pollution control projects.


Addressing Commonplace Issues

Currently, many communities rely on physical inspections or complaint reports to make them aware of common issues such as clogged storm drains.  Networked flow meter/sensor systems often have the ability to send real-time notifications to those who can properly manage these problems.  This helps save a lot of time and money for local municipalities, and it can also help address relatively minor issues before they become larger, more expensive problems.


CSO Notifications

Municipalities are required by law to notify their citizens when a sewage overflow has occurred, and many of them are under federal consent decree to stop them altogether.  This has been difficult for many communities to achieve with a real level of accuracy.  Regions that have adopted this technology are able to utilize real-time data alerts for the notification of CSO events to public officials and to the general public, so we know when it’s safe to swim, surf, and fish.  Cities can also utilize this technology to encourage public participation to conserve water during known CSO events; this can help mitigate pollution to receiving waters until structural controls can be applied.


Illicit discharges

As is the case with obstructions within the system, illicit discharges are often only spotted during routine inspections or after a call to a hotline.  Municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) are required to track them, but it’s difficult to manage hundreds of miles of sewer pipe that they can’t see—and if they can, in many cases relying on citizens to identify an unusual discharge and call it in.  Networked systems with real-time notifications can send alerts regarding dry weather flows or unexpected changes in flow that could help contain a discharge before it spreads into receiving waters.


Project-Scale Assessments

Project-scale monitoring is often required when public funds have been used to construct a pollution control project.  Considering the cost of many of the systems that are currently available, monitoring a specific storm event can be difficult to perform, especially for projects that have multiple inflows and outflows.  Networked flow/sensor systems can help paint a more accurate picture of how water flows through a project by giving coordinated data for each inflow and outflow.  Such systems can also alert the user to issues such as flow obstructions so they can be addressed prior to a storm event, resulting in higher quality data, fewer resources spent, and less data needing to be thrown out due to unforeseen issues within the system.


Model Validation

Many stormwater and CSO systems are designed, built, and assessed based on outdated computer models and often rainfall models that haven’t been updated to reflect current climate conditions.  While data are, of course, incorporated in each model, and some post-construction monitoring is carried out, it is often difficult to truly validate the models our infrastructure systems are based on.  Networked flow meter/sensor systems can be applied on a sewershed-scale to accurately measure the flow through the system.  This information can be used to validate current models and inform future iterations.


Prioritizing Future Work

It is predicted that storm intensity will increase as the climate changes, and tidal flooding is becoming an ever more frequent event along the East Coast, so we need to be both aware of and prepared for even greater impacts as a result of stormwater and CSO pollution in the years to come.  Accurate knowledge – based on measured, empirical data – regarding sewage overflow frequencies, volumes, and quality go a very long way to help prioritize treatment and/or abatement efforts.  Gathering baseline data with consistent monitoring at multiple networked sites can also help to document changes in trends due to climate change and increased urbanization.

Just imagine what it would be like to capture data at a granular level for measurable and effective application across entire urban watersheds, and for the first time ever, be able to identify, track, predict, and prevent stormwater issues in real time.


StormSensor Cloud-Based Stormwater Monitoring System


About StormSensor Incorporated

StormSensor offers the first – and only – cost-effective, easy-to-deploy sensor array that provides continuous, comprehensive water infrastructure monitoring data using proprietary machine-learning algorithms.  We give private and municipal water managers the information they need to reduce per capita stormwater costs and optimize existing stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.