On Monday, Oct. 1, three teams offered their final presentations in the first-of-its-kind LIFT Intelligent Water Systems (IWS) Challenge. After a few final questions, the competition’s 21 judges chose the team from the Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit (GLWA) for their project, Open-Storm Detroit Dynamics, as the winner of the $25,000 first prize.

The team includes two members from GLWA – Wendy Barrott and Christopher Nastally – and four members from the University of Michigan – Branko Kerkez, Sara Troutman, Abhiram Mullapudi, and Gregory Ewing.

This competition offered students, professionals, and technology experts the opportunity to combine their talents and innovation with tools and data to help utilities better understand the dynamics of complex systems for making better decisions and demonstrating the value of advanced sensing and/or data technology. The challenge began in April and required teams to submit real-world problems to be addressed. In total, 19 teams completed the challenge.

The GLWA team used data analytics to develop a tool that maximizes the use of existing collection systems in Detroit and minimizes combined sewer overflows. The team predicted that their solution can enable Detroit’s system to handle an additional 100 million gallons with no new construction. Based on Detroit’s costs for building new storage, this translates to savings of about $500 million. The research grant underlying this tool was less than $200,000.

Intelligent Water Systems Challenge

The second prize of $15,000 went to the team from the Metropolitan Water Resources District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC) for the project, Developing Intelligent Advanced Warning Systems for Odors at Thornton Composite Reservoir. The team included members from MWRDGC, Ensaras Inc., and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The third prize of $5000 went to the team from Clean Water Services (CWS) in Hillsboro, Ore., for the project, Influential Pump Station Optimization. All six team members came from CWS an reached across both wastewater treatment within the facility as well as field operations.

The $2500 prize for the Most Elegant Solution went to the team from Pima County, Ariz., for the creation of integrated data reporting tools for capturing data across multiple formats and databases to produce fewer and more-refined reports for facility-wide use.

The IWS Challenge is organized by LIFT, a joint effort of WEF and The Water Research Foundation (WRF). Xylem supported the challenge as diamond sponsor and Hach Co. supported the challenge as a gold sponsor. The challenge is also supported by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), BlueTech Research, Cleveland Water Alliance, Smart Water Networks Forum (SWAN), The International Society of Automation Water and Wastewater Division, The Water Council, and Water Technology Acceleration Project (WaterTAP).

The challenge required each team to follow the same steps to their solutions. Teams were required to develop challenge plans by April 23. These plans described the utility-specific challenge, the desired outcomes of the solution, the methodology the teams planned to follow, a description of the data sets to be used, and an implementation plan. In May, each team was assigned an IWS Challenge Steering Committee member to discuss these plans with the teams. Papers describing the teams’ final solutions were submitted on September 3 for the judges to review in preparation for Monday’s final presentation and question session.

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