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UM researchers think tech could help cities better manage stormwater

UM researchers think tech could help cities better manage stormwater
November 2, 2021 Michigan Radio

By Lester Graham, Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes News Collaborative includes Bridge Michigan; Circle of Blue; Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television; and Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR News Leader; who work together to bring audiences news and information about the impact of climate change, pollution, and aging infrastructure on the Great Lakes and drinking water. This independent journalism is supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Find all the work HERE.


More frequent and more intense storms are challenging the capacity of many cities’ stormwater systems. Climate change models indicate it’s only going to get worse. Research at the University of Michigan is looking at how municipalities can better manage a lot of water coming in all at once.

Associate Professor Branko Kerkez at the the university’s Civil and Environmental Engineering school says by using monitors and gate valves connected by the internet, systems can adjust to store water where there’s capacity so it doesn’t rush into areas already overwhelmed by stormwater.

“So a good example is: it’s raining a lot in one part of town. It’s not raining that much in another part of town. So, you might have storage assets that are not full all the time.”

That internet-connected monitoring system could feed into a central computer to assess what’s happening in real time and respond.

“Just like a car that, self-driving, steers itself given changing conditions, water systems in the future may be able to control themselves dynamically in response to these inputs,” Kerkez explained.

That could help avoid flooding and avoid sewer overflows that pollute rivers and lakes.

This smart stormwater management tech is just in the research stage, but big systems such as the Great Lakes Water Authority are working with the researchers to explore its potential.


Catch more news on Great Lakes Now: 

State of Michigan to avoid buying products containing PFAS

‘The water always wins’: Calls to protect shorelines as volatile Lake Michigan inflicts heavy toll


Featured image: University of Michigan Civil and Environmental Engineering students install a stormwater sensor. (Branko Kerkez/Civil And Environmental Engineering)

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