As the effects of climate change become more and more visible, increased events of flooding and serious sea level rises are among the issues that most immediately threaten our cities. In the last six months, the world experienced one of the worst hurricane seasons to date. Harvey, Irma and Maria collectively caused 260 deaths and an estimated $300 billion USD in damages.
Opti reduces risk of sewerage discharge
One United States startup, Opti, is developing technology to help flood-prone cities not only predict flooding events but rethink how they manage excess rainwater. Opti has developed technology that works in conjunction with cities already existing retention ponds. In flood-prone cities, retention ponds are created to accept the excess rainwater that comes with flooding. But in the event of a major storm, the retention ponds fill to capacity and then overflow causing catastrophic flooding to nearby rivers or other water bodies. This overflow can often carry sewage and other pollutants that are picked up by the water mass. Opti claims that in the US alone, over 900 billion gallons of raw sewage is discharged into natural bodies every year due to combined sewer overflows.
Software monitors incoming rain levels
Opti has developed software that initially monitors weather forecasts and anticipates how much rainwater is expected to hit an area. They then adjust existing retention pond levels to suit. For instance, if a large amount of rainwater is expected, local retention pond levels will be lowered to allow for the amount of incoming water. Then during the storm event, the ponds are further monitored by the Opti system. If the levels are reaching a critically high level, the software will act and release some of the built-up water into nearby river systems in a manner that won't cause flooding. The system can go a long way to help cities avoid devastating flood events. The company is realistic about what they can promise and don’t bill themselves as a prevention method but as a way to severely limit potential flood damage.
Opti put to test during Hurricane Irma
Opti got a huge workout during Hurricane Irma. The system was installed in five interconnected lakes in Ormond Beach, Florida, one of the areas to but hit by the raging hurricane.
"We've been very successful at proactively controlling individual sites and the plan is to be able to scale that to be able to control whole watersheds."
These lakes were drained by Opti as the storm approached and Opti CEO says there was no localized flooding in the area due to the system working efficiently. Opti has already been installed in over 130 locations in the U.S but CFO of the company, Chris Holden said that the system will be most effective when seen at an even larger scale.
Business will grow on back of $11M investment
The startup has already received more than $11 million in funding to date. Jeff Possick, managing director at MissionPoint Partners, Opti’s largest investor described their motivation to invest, saying: "We felt like it had the potential to have a really tremendous positive impact on resilience and pollution associated with storms."