Buffalo Sewer Authority (BSA) saved $145 million by deploying a cutting-edge digital system that reduced polluted water flowing into its rivers during storm events. By harnessing the power of data and analytics, the city improved the quality of local waterways and can use the $145 million savings to lessen the associated costs for city residents.
A collaboration with global water technology leader Xylem, the project recently won an IWA (International Water Association) award for transforming Buffalo’s sewer network by automatically redirecting excess rainwater to underused parts of its system to prevent overflows. The technology allowed BSA to use its existing network and solve a longstanding problem without spending on new infrastructure.
“Buffalo’s waterways have come a long way in recent years, with people fishing, strolling along their banks, and enjoying all sorts of festivities,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “I want to thank Oluwole A. (OJ) McFoy, BSA General Manager, for collaborating with Xylem to incorporate smarter technology into Buffalo’s existing infrastructure network and ensuring that we are sustainable in what we do.”
Aging water infrastructure, the impacts of climate change, and tight budgets to pay for upgrades mean utilities must be innovative to solve critical challenges.
“This project is about giving Buffalo a new way to manage its existing system. They already have these big assets and pieces of infrastructure. The idea is to give them a little tweak so that they run slightly differently during wet weather and avoid combined sewer discharges into the waterways,” said Rich Loeffler, Senior Practice and Solutions Architect at Xylem.
The technology allowed BSA to use its existing network and solve a longstanding problem without spending on new infrastructure
Using Xylem’s Wastewater Network Optimization System to address high volumes of combined sewer overflows (CSOs), BSA harnessed the power of machine learning, hydraulic modeling, and data and analytics to optimize its network.
“Whether it’s people, dollars, or opportunities, we realize that there are gaps in resources. We seek to bridge those gaps by being smarter and working harder to ensure that we are sustainable in what we do and that we are resilient in that effort,” said Oluwole A. (OJ) McFoy, BSA General Manager.
A Bridge to the Future
BSA used Xylem’s optimization solution to create a real-time decision support system that can visualize, predict, and control flows, regardless of the weather. Similar to a traffic app, the smart sewer system uses data from sensors across the network to pinpoint buildups. When one part of the network is under pressure, the city can redirect flow to underutilized parts of the system.
“We have shown this technology is effective and want to ensure that Buffalo remains prepared for the changing climate and the more intense storms coming our way,” added McFoy.
Having successfully embedded the Real-Time Control Smart Sewer technology at several sites, BSA has now committed to incorporating it into future projects across the city of Buffalo for a variety of applications. The technology will ultimately reduce the size and number of costly new infrastructure projects by maximizing usage within the overall system.
In a city with extremely localized weather patterns, this network of sensors will allow the individual sites to communicate and create capacity where it is needed most.
"The technology is unique because it treats the entire collection system as one cohesive, globally coordinated unit. If you only see rain in one part of the city, you may want to maximize or move flows in that portion of the city differently than somewhere where it is not raining,” added Loeffler.
The benefits of the project go beyond costs. BSA is now a greener operation with a solution that limited the need for carbon-intensive infrastructure and advanced the city’s environmental, economic, and water equity objectives.
“It's important to understand how it’s all connected and that we're all doing our part to make sure that we have this resource for many generations to come,” said Kristina Macro, Xylem Project Manager.
Meet the people involved in this innovative project by watching this video: How Buffalo, New York, is saving millions through smart sewers