The Secret Path Towards Eliminating Dry Weather Flows Might Be Hiding in Your Pocket. What Does a Smartphone, a Low Cost Web-Enabled Flowmeter, and Dry Weather Flow Have in Common?
Monitoring data is powerful information, but providing that monitoring data at the touch of a button can give both field crews and managers the ability to proactively react to situations and have profound impacts on the future of the data. This presentation will focus on a tool that is being developed to provide real-time flow data as a cost effective solution for assessing dry weather flows from the MS4 network, open channels, jurisdictional boundaries, and land use specific runoff e.g., targeting over-irrigation.
A series of questions for the audience will set the stage for this presentation. Do you remember the time before smart phones, when data and phone calls were transmitted over land line? Do you know how the energy companies get your usage information? Do they drive around and stop by your house every couple weeks to read the meter? Think about the amount of staff time that would be required. Almost each one of you in the room has an electrical meter that transmits data wirelessly over an advanced metering network. It is a much cheaper and easier way to gather all of that data, but what does an electrical meter have to do with dry weather flows?
Do municipalities have MS4 outfalls spread throughout their jurisdictions with dry weather flows that must be eliminated? Are those dry weather flows hard to track down and require large amounts of staff time? During wet weather flows, do you know how much water is being transferred through your drains? Is it time to start thinking about our MS4 drainage system as a utility that needs monitoring? The answer to each question is likely yes.
Pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), NPDES Storm Water Programs require permittees to effectively prohibit non-storm water discharges through their MS4 and implement controls to reduce the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable. Traditional approaches of dry weather source investigations require labor intensive field inspections that can have limited success observing transient flows. Currently, municipalities use staff members to inspect priority outfalls on a scheduled basis. However, most dry weather discharges are transient in nature and often do not coincide with scheduled site visits. Installing an array of low cost web-enabled flowmeters throughout a drainage area starts looking like a residential area of electrical meters. Data throughout the area is continually being collected and uploaded to the web, providing the data necessary to systematically prioritize drainage areas and focus on the highest priority areas to eliminate significant dry weather flows. Providing data in real-time, easily accessible from any web-enable device will enable field teams and managers the ability to receive flow alerts to address dry weather flows, illicit discharges, or code compliance issues resulting in actionable events and ultimately leading to meaningful changes for downstream receiving waters.