Abstract: In this era of digital assistants, robots, and other smart things, can we build the same level of autonomy into water systems? There is an unprecedented opportunity to reduce flooding and to improve water quality by equipping existing water systems with low-cost sensors and controllers. Doing so will vastly shrink the size of the infrastructure needed to manage run-off pollution and adapt to the impacts of changing weather. We will give examples of promising smart water test beds while also describing how to find useful data in unexpected places.
We describe a real-world sensor testbed in the midwestern United States, where an urban watershed was instrumented with wireless sensors to measure water levels, flow, and quality. These sensor data are analyzed in real time to control various distributed control points, such as gates, valves, and pumps. We show how the ability to adapt these control points in real time can drastically improve infrastructure performance by reducing flooding and improving water quality. A second example will also be given to show how a new generation of connected cars may already be collecting the water data we need. Specifically, we will look at how windshield wipers can be used to measure rainfall at locations that do not have stationary sensors. The presentation will include a broad overview of the field of smart water systems, as well as a discussion on the role of information technology in addressing some of our biggest water challenges.