Stormwater Made Sustainable – Opti Prepares Us for Tomorrow’s Storms

| OptiRTC

Generally speaking, we know when it is going to rain. Local weather forecasts are a daily part of news broadcasts and a staple of small talk. We even have smart rain alerts on our phones as helpful reminders to grab an umbrella before heading out the door. Weather forecast technology is increasingly accurate, hyper-local, and customizable to our daily routines, yet its applications have largely fallen short of addressing what is perhaps rain’s most direct effect — stormwater. Stormwater management challenges like flooding, drought, and pollution continue to catch our urban communities underprepared, despite the accessibility of rainfall forecasts. We know when it is going to rain, so why doesn’t our infrastructure?

Enter OptiRTC, or Opti for short. Opti was formed as a spin-out in December 2014 to bring innovative software to stormwater management, and currently offers the only industry solution that is truly cloud-based, hardware agnostic, and provides active forecast-based control of distributed stormwater infrastructure. Opti’s proven application of continuous monitoring and adaptive control (CMAC) technology enables municipalities and corporate landowners to meet their multi-billion dollar mandate to prevent water pollution, waste, and flooding with the cost savings and flexibility provided by a cloud-based solution.

Opti manages stormwater at the watershed scale. Distributed infrastructure is connected and controlled via Opti’s cloud platform, built natively on Microsoft Azure.

How can a cloud platform help keep our water clean and our cities safe?

Opti products address stormwater management in a completely modern way. By combining lightweight IoT hardware with a platform natively built on Microsoft Azure, Opti is able to predictively, autonomously, and securely control stormwater facilities based on the forecasted rainfall.

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Most existing stormwater infrastructure handles water passively. Rain falls onto hard surfaces like roads and roofs and flows downstream into temporary storage like a pond or concrete tank before finally reaching our rivers and oceans. Passive infrastructure is designed for a targeted event or average performance over the long term. This means that for the majority of rain events that are larger or smaller than the design storm, passive facility design is suboptimal for achieving performance objectives like water quality treatment or flood prevention. The effects are measurable.

When stormwater facilities function ineffectively, communities are negatively affected by a range of financial and environmental impacts including costly fines, poor water quality, localized flooding, and combined sewer overflows (CSOs). For example, among the 770 cities in the United States with combined sewer systems, the US EPA estimates that over 900 billion gallons of raw sewage are discharged into natural water bodies every year from CSOs. Many municipalities now have legal obligations to improve stormwater infrastructure performance under federally mandated consent decrees. And CSOs are just one of the many stormwater challenges that must be addressed at the watershed scale. As Opti CEO Marcus Quigley indicates, “Opti has a critical role to play in a broad range of stormwater management contexts by providing a means for deriving significant additional value from existing infrastructure to build more resilient and healthy cities.”

By making predictive, rather than reactive decisions, Opti lowers the risk of managing stormwater.  It enables stormwater managers to dependably keep their watersheds safe and in compliance to avoid costly regulatory fines. In addition to performing in the field, Opti technology provides access to historical and real-time data (stored in the cloud) that can be used to both prove and improve system performance.

Web-based dashboards display system performance data and weather forecast information. Stormwater managers can check on their systems, export custom data sets for analysis, and even remotely open or close valves in manual control mode. Typically, however, these systems operate autonomously in “automatic control” mode.

A powerful solution in the “Internet of Stormwater”

Opti deployed an adaptively controlled valve to optimize this 4 million gallon stormwater pond for water quality improvement and erosion reduction. When a storm is forecast, the valve closes. The valve remains closed for the duration of the storm, allowing the pond to collect rain and runoff that could otherwise overwhelm downstream waterways and cause erosion. Once the storm has passed, Opti continues holding back the collected water to allow sediment and pollutants to settle out, improving water quality. Then, during dry weather, the valve automatically opens again, releasing cleaner water downstream.

Opti has created the Internet of Stormwater – giving cities a modern, more powerful, and cost effective tool to mitigate their stormwater problems from a Microsoft Azure platform.

Opti chose Microsoft Azure with security, scale, and flexibility in mind. With hundreds of monitoring points and dozens of adaptively controlled valves active in watersheds across the United States, it is important that the cloud-native platform function reliably to ensure low risk, high performance stormwater management. Azure also empowers efficient product development and administration, allowing for regular upgrades and secure user management across all of Opti’s systems.

With the Internet of Stormwater built on Microsoft Azure, Opti intelligently connects weather forecasts to the infrastructure that must manage the rain when it falls. Opti’s proven software products and IoT technology address a range of connected stormwater management demands including green infrastructure initiatives, disaster resiliency, regulatory compliance, and watershed restoration. With predictive control technology for stormwater, Opti is preparing today’s infrastructure for tomorrow’s storms.

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