Low-cost sensors can improve flood management

Through the Flood Awareness Apex program, communities are experimenting with low-cost sensors for tracking floods.

When it comes to flood management, many cities depend on sensors to provide real-time insights that can give officials some warning so they can close roads and mitigate other flood-related risks. The Department of Homeland Security’s Flood Awareness Apex program is working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services and the Kentucky Division of Water to install low-cost flood sensors as part of scalable network to track and monitor water conditions.

Over the next year, DHS S&T will be installing 75 sensors at 25 locations to monitor flooding in both Mecklenburg County and Elizabethtown, Ky. The low-cost devices will give the communities an alternative to the sensors provided by U.S. Geological Survey, which are expensive to install and engineer for specific needs. The Apex program is working with Progeny Systems' internet-of-things sensors that can monitor, detect and report situational data to operations centers; Physical Optics Corp.'s wireless mesh digital radio network that connects the submergible sensors; and Evigia Systems' sensor analytics solutions.

As a utility provider, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services has a relatively mature flood sensor network that gives it real-time insights from a network of stream and rain gauges purchased under a cooperative agreement with USGS. It supports the Flood Information and Notification System (FINS), which sends out approximately 70 alerts a year based on modeling from flood maps.

The antennas on the FINS sensors send alerts to repeaters that transmit the information to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. The sensor data is analyzed and, if the flooding reaches certain thresholds, notifications are sent to responders like the Charlotte Fire Department.

“We are able to anticipate [problems] based on the amount of rain that we get,” Tim Trautman, program manager of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services Engineering and Mitigation Program, told GCN. “The system that we’ve built with the [USGS] gauges needs to work in real time, so we can get the right people out to respond to road closures.”

In the first year of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services project, officials want to see how the low-cost sensors compare to the USGS stream and rain gauges monitoring the same locations. The following year, depending on the accuracy of the new sensors, the utility will move the sensors to additional locations such as ditches or underneath bridges. The third year of the program will be devoted to inundation mapping and experimentation with different forms of communication, such as sending phone alerts to drivers who are traveling near flooded areas.

“We want to be able to produce real-time maps where you overlay buildings and other data with department resources such as boats, people and manpower,” Trautman said. “We’re hoping that if we double the number of sensors, then we will have more data on creek levels and be able to produce real-time inundation mapping in a robust way.”

The Kentucky Division of Water decided to specifically focus on a pilot in Elizabethtown because of its interest in exploring what happens when a dam fails. Elizabethtown has piezometers that track pressure exerted on the Freeman Lake Dam that were installed when the reservoir was built 17 years ago.

“We are specifically looking into dam failure modes and have prioritized them through an assessment of the different types of warning systems,” said Carey Johnson, environmental scientist consultant in the Kentucky Division of Water.

The low-cost sensors could measure the volume and velocity of the water that exists in current systems, which serves as a good indication of when failures such as overtopping and erosion could occur.

Through the Apex program the agencies can collaborate and share insights. They are also working with the Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin, Texas, which started partnering with DHS in 2016 on its flood sensor program.

NEXT STORY: States stumble on internet privacy

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.