The City of Chicago’s Array of Things urban sensor initiative has recently launched a new pilot project working with storm water management. The paved surfaces and infrastructure in the urban environment means that fallen rain, or storm water runoff, can be a major problem. Water that runs off of surfaces instead of seeping into the ground carries pollutants such as trash, bacteria, and chemicals and can also lead to floods and the erosion of urban waterways, causing serious property and infrastructure damage. The typical system of sewers, pipes, and catch basins that deliver storm water runoff to the nearest body of water – called gray storm water infrastructures – serves the purpose of diverting water away from the built environment.
Green infrastructure, which draws from nature to help manage storm water, is an additional method of handling runoff. It can include permeably-paved roads, green roofs and rain gardens, and bioswales. They can be cost-effective – the EPA maintains a list of financial analyses of green infrastructure initiatives from across the country.
City Digital’s Smart Green Infrastructure Project (SGIM) seeks to incorporate sensors with green infrastructure. It has installed sensors to collect storm water runoff data, such as precipitation amounts, humidity levels, soil moisture measurements, air pressure levels, and chemical absorption rates. The goal is to build a network of sensors that, combined with a platform for advanced computing and analysis, will serve as a tool for water challenge management and water infrastructure planning. SGIM’s data will be publicly available on the city’s data portal in 2017.
“Flooding is local, but its causes are system-wide,” David Leopold, City Digital’s Director of Program Management, said. “Through targeted deployment of green infrastructure across the larger system, cities can help address the flooding happening now and remain resilient in the face of future changes to climate and weather patterns.”