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Innovative stormwater asset management in future cities

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Mind4Stormwater (Innovative stormwater asset management in future cities)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

Mind4Stormwater aims to help cities achieve sustainable management of their “stormwater control measures” (SCMs). Stormwater control measures refer to nature-based solutions dedicated to managing stormwater, with the aim of mitigating the negative impacts of traditional stormwater pipe networks. Such nature-based solutions dedicated to stormwater management are often applied at or near to the source of runoff: swales, infiltration trenches, or green roofs. SCMs remain a poorly understood but relatively important asset in cities: after several decades of operation, there is, however, a growing concern regarding their medium and long-term performance and maintenance. Operational and research questions have so far largely focused on optimising hydrologic, hydraulic and water quality performance. However, there is a growing concern regarding sustainable long-term management of these systems, and their impacts on performance and cost. Such concern will likely limit future application and development of SCMs. On the other hand, SCM operation and maintenance could create new business opportunities related to sensors, monitoring and asset management. According to the UN, investing US$188 billion to manage stormwater and preserve water quality in the US alone could generate US$265 billion in economic activity and create nearly 1.9 million jobs. The situation is likely very similar with the 600,000 direct jobs in the EU water services sector. Mind4Stormwater is working on adapting existing low-cost technology sensors to the specific context of SCMs and developing an innovative Expert System to guide the utility manager in selecting the best O&M actions for each SCM.
The expert system has been developed based on Melbourne Water Wetlands and the fellow was fully integrated within the Waterway Ecosystem Research Group (WERG) of the University of Melbourne. This case study has enabled the integration of the Mind4Stormwater project within the ‘Melbourne Waterway Research-Practice Partnership’ (https://mwrpp.org) providing the fellow with direct involvement from Melbourne Water and access to additional resources, i.e. scientific and technical assistance. A worldwide review of the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) practices regarding SCM has been establish and published online, in the form of an up-to-date list of existing guidelines (http://tiny.cc/guidelinesSCMs). The review of scientific literature and operational guidelines, along with exchanges with stakeholders, have proven that the water level is the best solution to inform on the overall operation of the system. The development of the low-cost monitoring system has taken more time than expected because some difficulties had been underestimated (mostly related to communication for real-time access to the data) and mainly because the fellow decided to benefit from extra training on IT matters. The work has led to the successful deployment of a monitoring system in several wetlands providing real-time data on the water level, with a cost under 100 €/unit. A dedicated platform (http://mind4stormwater.online) has also been developed to provide real-time and open access to the data. The platform gathers the information from all monitoring systems and the users can visualise or download all or part of the data.
Regarding the transfer of knowledge, the fellow had the opportunity to benefit from an important number of trainings provided by the University of Melbourne, he has extensively learnt from many high-level experts from the laboratory WERG and has benefited from several online courses. The fellow has also greatly benefited from working in a different country, he has discovered very interesting ways of working and collaborating. He has been very quickly and fully integrated in the WERG team and such an integration was the key to a successful transfer of knowledge.
Regarding the general communication, the Mind4Stormwater project has produced a brochure, a general website (https://mind4stormwater.org) a data visualisation platform (http://mind4stormwater.online) a GitHub page (https://github.com/fcherqui/Mind4stormwater) and a YouTube channel (http://tiny.cc/M4Schannel). Several presentations and documents have also been disseminated to communicate on the project, its activities and to provide teaching materials dedicated to low-cost monitoring system development. Regarding the scientific dissemination, the fellow has participated in two international conferences: NOVATECH 2019 (Lyon, France) and LESAM 2019 (Vancouver, Canada). The fellow has also led the authorship of two accepted international papers (Water Resources Research & H2Open journals). The NOVATECH 2019 conference paper won the Best Poster Award and the Water Resources Research paper has been selected for the Editors’ Highlights. The fellow is also involved in the writing of a chapter of an international book dedicated to operation and maintenance in urban drainage metrology, to be published by International Water Association Publishing in 2021.
The outgoing period was successful both for the project and the fellow. The fellow’s potential has already been enhanced in the short term thanks to new knowledge, new ways of working interactions with colleagues, and new contacts. The fellow believes to have establish a mutually beneficial long-term relationship with many researchers from the Australian laboratory. Notably, the collaboration has already led to the funding of the organisation of a workshop in Lyon, France in 2019 and involving 12 Australian researchers, and two PhDs. Several other initiatives have been submitted, in the aim of both strengthening the collaboration and providing funds to pursue the work after the end of the Mind4Stormwater project.
The developed expert system is the proof of concept that stormwater control measures can be monitored with limited resources, in real-time, providing effective solutions for the long-term performance and maintenance of such systems. The fellow remains in close contact with the research team in Melbourne helping to deploy more systems in the wetlands managed by Melbourne Water. Additional deployments are expected in the City of Whittlesea (Victoria, Australia) in association with the Stormwater Management Coordinator. In the last months, the fellow has increased the networking activities toward the operational sector, targeting cities, utilities and SMEs. The objectives are (i) to demonstrate the benefits of low-cost monitoring system to encourage innovation from the SMEs, and (ii) to support champion cities willing to follow this path, in the definition of the specifications of monitoring systems. Market development requires not only new products, it also requires customers (cities and utilities). To date, the offer and the demand do not match because IoT companies which are developing the products have a limited knowledge on water management, and cities have not yet really encompassed the potential of such systems. It is believed that the production of short documents to detail the specifications of the monitoring systems will help SMEs to better understand the needs and cities and utilities to make the most of the low-cost systems. Specifications concern the communication (and real-time access to data), or the autonomy, but most importantly what should be monitored and how often, and what rules needs to be defined for the alert system.
Prototype of water level monitoring system (c) Frederic Cherqui
Raingarden, Little Stringy Bark Creek, Australia (c) Frederic Cherqui
Logo of the Mind4Stormwater project (c) Frederic Cherqui
Prototype of water level monitoring system (c) Frederic Cherqui
Infiltration basin, Villeubanne, France (c) Frederic Cherqui
Collage of stormwater control measures (c) Frederic Cherqui
Flow measurement, Quirks, Australia (c) Frederic Cherqui
Raingarden, Little Stringy Bark Creek, Australia (c) Frederic Cherqui
Prototype of water level monitoring system (c) Frederic Cherqui
Infiltration basin, Bron, France (c) Frederic Cherqui