Here’s how data can help combat future flooding, today

Graeme Wright
By , - InnovationEnergy & Utilities

Climate change is an objective fact – in spite of some very public attempts to deny it.

In fact, statistics from NASA show that the average surface temperature of the planet has risen around 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. Just one effect of the warming contribution of greenhouse gas emissions is increased rainfall – since warmer air can hold more water vapour.

Last summer was one of the hottest the UK has experienced since records began – and the increase in temperature is set to bring about heavy rainfall. And with heavy rainfall, of course, comes increased the risk of flooding.

Consequently, it’s clear that this is an eventuality that we need to prepare for.

The good news is that we have the technology available to help us prepare for flooding – the industry just has to make use of it.

Data from the deep

We can, for example, predict flooding by linking rainfall patterns with conditions in the sewer network.

Currently, there’s almost no sensor data collection at sewer level, which makes it difficult to monitor water levels and identify whether there is a blockage or not (blockages, of course, can expedite the flooding effects of heavy rainfall).

New low-power networks along with energy harvesting techniques are starting to make this a technical reality.

There’s an opportunity to use data analytics to learn more about conditions in our sewer networks and monitor key factors such as geographic conditions, gradients, and sewer upkeep that will help pinpoint future flooding risks.

By using sensors to highlight where there are high-risk areas for flooding, it’s possible to collect richer data and have better analytics for predicting when flooding will take place.

Applying machine learning to combine sewer network parameters with sensor data along with demographic and geographic data will further help predict where high-risk areas are increasing the chance of flooding – where blockages are occurring more commonly, for instance, or where emergency syphoning can’t keep up with demand.

Predicting and preventing floods can be achieved by issuing prescriptive actions to allocate resource more systematically in order to prevent flood situations occurring, through preventative actions or longer-term asset investment to reduce the total cost of ownership.

Acting on new discoveries

In order to make the most of this, however, there need to be more sensors deployed to collect the necessary information.

As the world and its weather systems become increasingly unpredictable, with more severe and intense conditions becoming commonplace, being as prepared as we can is crucial to mitigate future catastrophes.

Data is an invaluable resource in this. We just need to make sure we’re using it properly.

Graeme Wright

Graeme Wright

CTO for the Manufacturing, Utilities, and Services, UK and Ireland at Fujitsu at Fujitsu
Graeme Wright

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