This season, they started a 3-year project that will help them try to get ahead of the rising water. Cameras mounted at intersections in Phoenix and Flagstaff will be pointed downward, toward the curb and gutter to monitor flooding. From there, it’s a matter of putting the data from the cameras into an algorithm.
“We can take our understanding of the flow of water through the pipes and say, ‘Well, if it’s flooding here, and we know the precipitation patterns (because we also have precipitation data), here are the other areas in the city that are likely to be flooding at the same time,” water resource engineer Margaret Garcia said.
Garcia and her teams hope they can one day give people a heads-up that flooding will happen on certain streets within 30 minutes or an hour (or whatever the case may be).
“We could send folks like emergency managers, like say police or ambulances that want to know what areas to avoid,” she said.
She and the PhD students at ASU are also teaming up with engineers at Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona. Five cameras are already up in Flagstaff, and five will be put up in Phoenix. In addition to the cameras, the group also relies on citizen scientists to help out.
“We’ll be putting up some signs in the Phoenix area. They’re already up in the Flagstaff area, and they prompt passersby to send an image or a text message about flooding,” Garcia said.
They already know the hydrology and hydraulic aspects of the system work, but this is the first time they’ve been put together with cameras and citizen scientists.
Those cameras, by the way, would not be looking at people walking or driving by; they can only see what’s happening at ground level. The scientists are working on getting permission from the City to mount the cameras on existing light and utility poles.