Local Tech Companies Tackle Stormwater Challenges

October 28, 2019
Business Buzz
Water Canada

Collingwood’s cluster of tech companies are piloting a unique approach to stormwater management using an interconnected set of devices.  Known as the Stormwater Collingwood Pilot Project, a group of companies specializing in water related technologies came together several years ago to solve a problem…reducing the amount of water that comes off houses during major storm events, and then spills into stormwater systems.  They hypothesized that if water could be better managed at the house ‘lot’ level, there could be a significant decrease in spikes the Town’s stormwater systems experience.  And there could be additional spinoff benefits, including lowering the risk of flooded basements.

That idea is now a pilot project being tested in over 50 homes in the Town of Collingwood.

The project has garnered the attention of several organizations, including Water Canada, the only national magazine dedicated to water quality and stewardship in Canada.  It’s the choice for industry leaders on topics related to drinking water, source water protection and conservation, stormwater management and technology advancement.

Their recently published story provides insight into the various tech experts who came together for www.CollingwoodPilotProject.ca.  They include an Internet Of Things (IoT) sump pump from SAFE SUMP, a app-managed rain cistern from RaidGrid,  data collection and household connectivity by Huronia Alarm, public consultations from the Environment Network, and Big Data collection and analysis from Greenland Consulting.


How the Town of Collingwood is leveraging  local expertise to address  stormwater challenges.

MUNICIPALITIES  IN  ONTARIO  are   taking an  interest in addressing stormwater challenges within their communities. One    of   these  municipalities   is   the Town of Collingwood, which has  been exploring how   innovative technologies can   be  used   to  address local   concerns and   also  help  the  community adapt to the effects  of climate change. Here's  an example of how a solution developed by a Collingwood teen  is helping the Town of Collingwood achieve its objectives.

The need for reliable sump pumps

Faulty and  outdated sump pumps create serious concerns for  homeowners in communities where extreme rainfall events occur.

If a  sump pump fails,  it  can  lead  to water leaks  through cracks and  gaps  in a  home's basement,  which can  in  turn lead  to flooding and  trigger an insurance claim  with  a hefty  price  tag. The average insurance claim  for  a flooded basement was $43,000 in 2018,  according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada's data that was cited  in a report by the Intact Centre on  Climate Adaptation.

This is  something that some homeowners in the Town of Collingwood, a municipality located in southern Ontario, have been  no stranger to. Daniel Correia,  a  local   teen   in   Collingwood, knew  that  something needed to  be done about this  when  he saw  his dad  and neighbours  dealing  with   these  issues time  and  time  again. So he set off to find a solution.

The solution: remote monitoring

With  a  passion for  electronics, Correia set out  to create a solution that  would provide peace  of  mind for  homeowners in Collingwood and  beyond.

Correia developed Safe  Sump,  a system  that  uses    Internet  of   Things (loT) to  keep  homeowners updated through an app  about how  their sump pump is performing. The app  provides information about variables like  the backup battery, which can continue to provide power to the  sump pump in  the event  of a power failure.

The    Safe   Sump   solution   quickly captured  the   attention  of  staff   at   the Town    of   Collingwood.   "One    of   the main objectives of the  Safe  Sump technology is  to  initiate early  warnings for  homeowners about power outages, backup battery time  you  have  on  hand, and  the  flow  rates you  are  seeing," said Nic  Keast, a  senior project manager at Greenland Consulting.

"You  also  want   to  have  the  ability to call out to an alarm company or someone who   can    respond  in   the   absence   of the  homeowner," Keast  said. "[At the outset of the  Collingwood Pilot  project,] Huronia Alarms,  a local alarms company, already had  a presence in mobilizing for emergencies and [undertaking] call outs to homes so when the installations were put into homes that were already clients of Huronia Alarms, they  came to benefit from  having Huronia Alarms get  access to the Safe  Sump data and  assist in their call outs."

Given   that  the   Safe   Sump  solution could monitor  flow   rates, staff   at  the Town  of  Collingwood started  exploring whether Safe  Sump could help  address some of  the   challenges it  was   facing. In  particular,  the  town   knew   that   wet weather flow  was entering the sanitary sewer from a particular subdivision. Before upgrading the  wastewater treatment  plant, one   of  the   questions that  staff  had  was:  how  many basement sump pumps are  directly connected to the sanitary sewer?

The  Town  of  Collingwood enlisted Greenland Consulting to help  determine whether Safe  Sump could  be used  to determine whether sump pumps were contributing to the  wet weather flow entering the  sanitary sewers during extreme  rain  events.  In   an   effort  to reduce  the   stress on   municipal  sewer infrastructure and  save  costs, the  town also wanted to find out what combination of  technologies and   approaches  could be  used  to reduce stormwater runoff  by 5O per cent during 24-hour rainfall events. The  project partners  proceeded  with scoping out   a  pilot   project that   would involve  installing   5O    sump   pumps in  homes  that   were   at  a  high   risk   of basement   flooding.  The   project  also proposed  installing  two   rain  gardens, two   permeable  parking  lots, and 10 RainGrid cisterns.  With this combination of solutions scoped out  to  help  address stormwater runoff  in the community, the Town   of  Collingwood secured  a  grant through the'  Green   Municipal Fund to undertake a pilot  project. Once  the Town of  Collingwood secured  the  funding, it brought  the  Environment Network on board to undertake public consultations.

Pilot project enables data-driven  decision-making

Thanks to the  data gathered through the Collingwood Pilot  Project, the  Town  of Collingwood and   Greenland Consulting were "able  to   see   what  the   dry   wet weather flows were in the sanitary sewer," Keast said.  "Then based on the sump pumps installed within the  subdivision, we  were   able   to  begin   assess whether sump pumps are contributing to that  wet weather flow.  Ultimately,  we  were  able to  compare the  data collected with  the sump pumps with  the  data collected by the sewer main."

Using the  data, the  Town  of Collingwood and  Greenland Consulting made  inferences   that     sump   pumps weren't contributing  to the  wet  weather flow.  Using   this  information, the  Town of   Collingwood  determined   it   didn't need   to    allocate  resources  towards a  sump disconnection campaign to educate  homeowners on   making sure their sump pumps aren't connected to sanitary services.

Simran Chattha is the associate editor of Water  Canada.