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How Kansas City is using technology in sewers to detect overflows

Posted: 12:07 PM, Mar 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-19 17:15:27Z
smart sewers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Have you ever thought about technology being used in sewer systems?

Well, that’s exactly what’s happening across Kansas City.

The city teamed up with EmNet to use sensors to measure water depth and flow in the sewer systems.

The sensors will use artificial intelligence to learn how the sewer infrastructure can hold excess rain water and keep it from overflowing and basement backups.

“It’ll utilize data from systems like this and combine this data with machine learning tools to be able to help us understand how we manage the water that is moving underneath our feet,” EmNet President and CTO Luis Montestruque said.

Montestruque said underneath the cover, there’s a telemetric microprocessor and transmission system that is monitoring the sewer and how much water is in it any time it rains or there’s an event.

“Understanding what is really happening there and understanding how it operates will help us better solve the problems that it has,” Montestruque said. “You're looking at the largest smart sewer system in the world that will utilize all of this sensing, machine learning and optimization technologies to better manage storm water runoff.”

Kansas City, Missouri, Special Assistant City Manager Andy Shively said Kansas City’s wastewater infrastructure is nearly 160 years old.

“We need to invest in our infrastructure in the smartest way possible, so we need to make each and every dollar count and we need to solve the environmental problems that we have with our sewer overflows. And we need to do that in the most cost efficient way possible,” Shively said.

Nine years ago, Kansas City entered into a consent decree with the EPA to limit the amount of overflow from the city’s sewer system.

The Smart Sewer program was then introduced, which is a 25-year, $4.5 billion plan to address the issue. In 2016, Shively said the city looked at ways to save $1 billion in water and infrastructure.

Shively connected the Montestruque’s Indiana-based company to deploy what they call the world’s first artificially intelligent sewer sensor network.

“By getting that information, allowing the machine learning, artificial intelligence to predict how the sewer would react during the next wet weather event, it allows us to build infrastructure in a much smarter way, a cost-efficient way.” Shively said. “And the benefits are not just to the environments and to the community but the rent-payers who are funding this work and so we want to make sure that the rent-payer is getting the most bang for their buck.”

As of right now, there are 300 sensors deployed throughout Kansas City’s 318 square miles.

For more information about Kansas City’s Smart Sewer Program, click here.