How smart wastewater management saved an Indiana city millions

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South Bend, Indiana had a serious problem: wastewater spilling into the St. Joseph River and welling up in basements. The city’s wastewater pipes and treatment facilities just couldn’t handle the volume.

The city was looking at an estimate of $120 million for a daunting infrastructure upgrade. Instead, it entered a public-private partnership with Notre Dame University, local tech company EmNet and Smart Cities Council member IBM to come up with a new way to monitor and control its wastewater collection system. The new approach cost the city 1/20th of the initial estimate – a much more budget-friendly $6 million.

The integration of IBM technology with smart valves and sensors from business partner EmNet helped the city to be proactive in its wastewater management, avoiding additional infrastructure investments while improving public health. Meanwhile, Notre Dame students came up with innovative apps to allow residents to report flooding, social media tools that collect information on water systems and more. As a result, the technology and research made it possible to automate what had been manual and labor-intensive data collection.

With the new system in place, the city is now able to monitor and actively control its wastewater collection system, which has helped cut down on sewer back-ups and overflows.