Big Apple launches city wide flood monitoring scheme

New York City mayor, Eric Adams, has launched a new scheme which is hoped will provide a new line of defence for the city when it comes to extreme weather events.

As the city braces for the 2022 storm season, which, in the face of accelerating climate change, could mean more frequent and extreme storms producing significant volumes of stormwater it has launched a system which will allow authorities and the public to understand when ands high quickly flood water are rising.

An academic, government and community consortium called FloodNet, which includes the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB) led by CUNY-Brooklyn College, the CUNY Advanced Science Research Centre (ASRC), and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice, and the NYC Office of Technology & Innovation features a just-launched, free-to-use, publicly available web tool that will make it easy for communities and government agencies to know where, when and how quickly flood waters are rising, either from overburdened stormwater drains, or coastal seawater surges.

Created in partnership with FieldKit, with funding from the New York State Empire State Development Corporation, the new mobile-ready web dashboard presents real-time data collected by the expanding FloodNet system of low-cost, open-source sensors in flood-prone areas across the city. Currently, FloodNet comprises 30 ultrasonic devices deployed in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island, from which readings are delivered to an interactive map and data visualization platform, allowing users to see the occurrence and depth of flood water at each sensor location.

At a climate resiliency press conference on to mark the anniversary of Hurricane Ida, Adams highlighted the expanding FloodNet project, which includes the new dashboard and 500 new sensors.

“I’m a big believer in technology to run our city smarter,” he said, adding that the sensors and dashboard, “Will provide the city with critical infrastructure in order to advice evacuations, travel bans, or road closures.

“This is more than infrastructure; it’s how we are going to protect our city and people from rising sea levels and stronger storms,” he said. “This is how we are going to lead. Everyone takes notice of what happens here in New York and what happens here cascades to the rest of the country.”

“Hurricane Ida’s deadly deluge demonstrated New Yorkers’ vital need for immediate access to real-time flooding information,” said New York City chief technology officer Matthew C. Fraser, in a statement. “When future storms threaten our city, New York City FloodNet will save lives by informing the safety-related decisions made by city agencies, emergency responders, and residents. My office is proud to have partnered with numerous city government agencies and universities on this innovative tech project that exemplifies Mayor Adams’ mission to ‘Get Stuff Done’ for New Yorkers.”

“This is the first time that quantitative data on urban flood occurrence, depth and duration have been measured and provided to the public — we’re excited to share the dashboard with communities, city agency partners, and other researchers,” said Andrea Silverman, an assistant professor of Environmental Engineering part of the research team which led the initiative. “We’ve heard many stories and desired use cases for the data from a variety of stakeholders and are looking forward to seeing how these communities end up using the real-time and historic flood data.”