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Chicago’s New Sensor-Based System: How a Smart City Tackles Rainfall

By combining sensors and cloud computing, a new pilot project in Chicago provides an innovative solution for what can be an everyday urban problem: rainwater. “We would like to know at a high level whether the green stormwater infrastructure is working,” said Brenna Berman. “Is it preventing rainwater from entering the sewer system? Which designs work better in hard rains versus soft rains? Which work better during long storms versus flash floods?”

FLASHBACK TO 2003: “Water Balance Model for British Columbia” introduced to local government elected representatives as part of formal launch at UBCM Urban Forum (Sept 2003)

"The Stormwater Guidebook and Water Balance Model initiatives link directly to land use planning, policy, and regulation," stated Mayor Barry Janyk. “Use of the Water Balance Model promotes a watershed-based approach that recognizes the relationships between the natural environment and the built environment, and manages them as integrated components of the same watershed."

FLASHBACK TO 2003: BC Inter-Governmental Partnership previewed look-and-feel of “Water Balance Model for British Columbia” at Partners Forum hosted by Greater Vancouver Regional District in Burnaby (June 2003)

The goal is to change land development practices so that sites and subdivisions function hydrologically like a natural forest. "By developing the Water Balance Model, the IGP is meeting its mission of providing local governments and landowners with a 'decision support and scenario modeling tool' that is interactive and scientifically defensible," stated Laura Maclean. “This will help them meet performance targets for runoff volume reduction.”

FLASHBACK TO 2002: Metro Vancouver hosted inaugural Partners Forum that initiated development of the web-based “Water Balance Model for British Columbia” (July 2002)

The ‘date of record’ for formal launch of the Inter-Governmental Partnership (IGP) to ‘make real’ the vision for the WBM initiative is July 17, 2002. On that date the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now known as Metro Vancouver) convened a meeting of representatives from three levels of government. "The defining outcome of that inaugural Water Balance Partners Forum was the decision to fund and proceed with WBM development," stated Kim Stephens.

FLASHBACK TO 2002: Early decision-making by the Inter-Governmental Partnership was guided by a Backgrounder titled “The Water Balance Model: A Tool for Stormwater Source Control Modeling in a Watershed Context” (July 2002)

"The WBM can be applied to evaluate the hydrologic performance of stormwater source controls (e.g. bioretention, infiltration facilities, rainwater capture and re-use, green roofs) and stormwater detention," stated Dr. Dan Medina. "The output hydrograph generated by the WBM can become an input to a wide range of hydraulic routing models. WBM hydrographs represent a major improvement over conventional hydrologic simulation of urban runoff."

As the driest inhabited continent, Australia has pioneered the best practices when it comes to management of water

"Despite some state government opposition, there is a great case for making stormwater resources that hit the ground on the property of local councils. This could incentivise councils to treat, harvest and sell water resources to industries or direct to citizens for non-potable uses," stated Grant Duthie. "If water authorities were required to engage councils, as the owners of stormwater resources, there would likely become far more incentive to co-develop WSUD principles."

Pittsburgh’s Green & Clean Plan: “This is a COMPREHENSIVE approach to address the root of the problem and not just one of the problems,” stated Mayor Bill Peduto

"The draft City-Wide Green First Plan will guide where green infrastructure will be installed to achieve the most cost-effective and beneficial results to the residents of Pittsburgh," stated Mayor Bill Peduto. "The draft plan analyzed 13,700 acres in the City and proposes to manage runoff from 1,835 acres with green infrastructure over the next twenty years. “Going ‘Green First’ means improving the resiliency of our communities to disaster during extreme weather."

2015 Water Balance Partners Forum: Metro Vancouver hosted the “event of record” for release of Beyond the Guidebook 2015, third in a series of guidance documents that build on BC’s Stormwater Planning Guidebook

“In British Columbia, we have made considerable progress over the past 10 to 15 years. We are on the right track," stated Kim Stephens. "By 2017 we would hope that everyone is beginning to understand where we need to go next. We are tying the process to asset management because we have a provincial initiative that is a factor in what everyone in local government does in their day job. Through sharing and learning, ensure that where we are going is indeed the right way.”

FLASHBACK TO 2008: At a meeting of the Urban Development Institute in Victoria, Kim Stephens reviewed the science-based breakthrough in understanding that led to development of the Water Balance Model (March 2008)

"Urban land use has been degrading the natural environment for more than 100 years. Sit on that for a while. 100 years, perhaps more. Holy smokes," wrote Marie Savage. "So what’s all this talk about developers and builders, the ultimate urban land users, protecting watersheds? It’s true. All it took was a twist and a twirl and the connection between runoff, sewers, and the resulting stress on natural systems came out of the pipework."

FLASHBACK TO 2002: “An important message is that planning and implementation involves cooperation among all orders of government as well as the non-government and private sectors,” wrote Erik Karlsen, BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs

“During the late 1960s, BC began its multi-faceted and ongoing journey towards sustainability," stated Erik Karlsen. "In the early 2000s, inter-governmental partnerships were formed to address environmental challenges; and were supported by protocol agreements between the Province and the Union of BC Municipalities.” Watershed / Landscape-Based Approach to Community Planning, a landmark document, was developed by an intergovernmental working group.