Tech and real estate turn to the cloud to protect cities from floods

By draining the water before the storm hits, the tanks, lakes or ponds have the capacity to hold much more water when the intense rains fall. In Albany, New York, two summers ago, a few random rainstorms caused over $3 million in damage to sewers overwhelmed by unusually heavy water. That is why Joseph Coffey, commissioner of Albany’s Department of Water and Water Supply, turned to Opti.

“I’ve been here 4½ years, and I think what we call the ‘rain bomb’ storms have been a little bit more severe, particularly this year,” Coffey said. “These extreme rainfall events are causing flooding, basement backups and combined sewer overflows into the Hudson River.”

Opti installed its system in Washington Park Lake, right in the heart of the city’s downtown, as well as one of Albany’s constructed wetlands.

In the lake, the water is held back by a large panel, which makes sure the level is maintained at a certain elevation. At the bottom, a valve is connected to cloud infrastructure through a nearby control box. The system watches the weather every second. When the cloud says a storm is coming, the valve opens to drain the lake, making room for more rainwater.

“So far it’s been a relatively short period of time that we’ve had it in play, but it’s worked great. We seem like we have less of a frequency of the flooding in the streets, and we probably have managed this backup in the basements pretty well,” Coffey said. “But the other benefit that it has, we probably have fewer combined sewer overflow events in the Hudson River, and that’s a big benefit for us because that’s a regulatory issue.”

The system also saved the city a considerable amount of money, sparing the need to build new drains, sewers and reservoirs.

“Typically, the savings are in the range, on the capital side, from 50 to 90 percent, and you can tell what that probably means to local communities. We all know there isn’t enough money to go around,” Quigley said.

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