Buffalo Sewer Authority (BSA) saved US$145m by deploying a digital system that reduced polluted water flowing into its rivers during storm events. By harnessing the power of data and analytics, the city improved the quality of local waterways and can use the US$145m savings to lessen the associated costs for city residents.
As a collaboration with American water technology provider Xylem, this project has recently won an International Water Association (IWA) award for transforming Buffalo’s sewer network by automatically redirecting excess rainwater to underused parts of its system to prevent overflows. The technology allowed BSA to use its existing network and solve a longstanding problem without spending on new infrastructure.
Ageing water infrastructure, impacts of climate change, and tight budgets to pay for upgrades mean utilities must be innovative to solve critical challenges.
“This project is about giving Buffalo a new way to manage its existing system. The idea is to give a little tweak so that they run slightly differently during wet weather and avoid combined sewer discharges into the waterways,” said Rich Loeffler, Xylem senior practice and solutions architect.
Using Xylem’s wastewater network optimisation system to address high volumes of combined sewer overflows (CSOs), BSA harnessed the power of machine learning (ML), hydraulic modelling, and data and analytics to optimise its network.
“There are gaps in resources. We seek to bridge those gaps by being smarter to ensure that we are sustainable,” said Oluwole McFoy, BSA general manager.
BSA used Xylem’s optimisation solution to create a real-time decision support system that can visualise, predict, and control flows, regardless of the weather. Similar to a traffic app, the smart sewer system uses data from sensors across the network to pinpoint build-ups. When one part of the network is under pressure, the city can redirect flow to underutilised parts of the system.
“We want to ensure that Buffalo remains prepared for the changing climate and the more intense storms coming our way,” added McFoy.
Having embedded the real-time control smart sewer technology at several sites, BSA has now committed to incorporating it into future projects across the city of Buffalo for a variety of applications. The technology will reduce the size and number of costly new infrastructure projects by maximising usage within the overall system.
In a city with localised weather patterns, this network of sensors will allow the individual sites to communicate and create capacity where it is needed most.
“The technology treats the entire collection system as one cohesive, globally coordinated unit. If you only see rain in one part of the city, you may want to maximise or move flows in that portion of the city differently than somewhere where it is not raining,” added Loeffler.
The benefits of the project go beyond costs. BSA is now a greener operation with a solution that limited the need for carbon-intensive infrastructure and advanced the city’s environmental, economic, and water equity objectives.