High-Tech Sewers; South Bend to Save Millions With Sensors

The Public Works Department of South Bend, Indiana, has teamed up with the University of Notre Dame to create a high-tech flow-management system that brings unprecedented insight into a notoriously low-tech region: the sewers.


The Public Works Department of South Bend, Indiana, has teamed up with the University of Notre Dame to create a high-tech flow-management system that brings unprecedented insight into a notoriously low-tech region: the sewers.

According to a Notre Dame report, a system of 115 sensors has been placed throughout South Bend’s 500 miles of sewer tubes and tanks. The system enables the Public Works Department to see everything across the entire system 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The sensors transmit data every five minutes, providing warnings of rising levels, overflows, basement backups, and other problems.

Previously, the department had two full-time employees lifting manhole covers across the city 40 hours each week to visually detect fluid levels and potential problems.

They system, installed by a company called EmNet, includes a series of remotely controlled "smart valves," that can optimize flow and maximize storage during wet weather. The concept is similar to the way in which many cities now have traffic systems that use artificial intelligence to divert traffic and alleviate congested areas.

According to the Notre Dame report, the city has already knocked $100 million off the estimated $500 billion it had expected to pay to bring its system up to federal and state standards over the next 20 years. It's investment was "close" to $6 million.

Recently, officials from New York visited to review the system.

Original coverage in Notre Dame Magazine and details from the city are available online. The original press release from 2008 is also available. Details on the company EmNet is here.

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