"We will command the wind, the rain ..."

We consider ourselves masters of creation. We change the landscape the way we want, we change river beds, we build cities that rise to heaven. But sometimes nature let us know that she is the true ruler. Extreme weather fluctuations are increasingly associated with climate change. Will AI help us handle them?


Torrential water in cities

Orcs, torrential floods and similar natural disasters are characterized by their very difficult predictability. They cause great damage when they happen. From year to year, the likelihood that similar phenomena will become more frequent increases. Only last year, Bratislava experienced two large torrential downpours that caused great damage.

Since we cannot anticipate such events in advance, a solution must be found to respond promptly to a crisis situation. The right strategy can significantly reduce damage. Rain floods require a very sophisticated solution. For centuries, we have changed the flow of rivers, regulated river basins, and every such change has affected how the soil responds to torrential water.

Intelligent sewerage

There are several ways to minimize the negative impact of nature on our cities. Between 2013 and 2016, in Vienna the largest sewerage system in Europe was successfully built which helps to process rainwater and household wastewater effectively.

It is also possible to use artificial intelligence to set up the whole system.

Sheffield University has developed CENTAUR which uses AI to manage city waterways. It is an innovative, low-cost, local autonomous sewer management system that reduces the risk of flooding and flooding in cities. After installing barriers and sensors in sewers, the system can divert water from one part to another. Sensors monitor the water level on both sides of the gate to inform when action is required. In extreme weather conditions, the gates can be operated remotely. If the system assesses that the drainage in a part of the city is overflowing with water, it can close the gates and divert water to another part of the city. CENTAUR uses fuzzy logic algorithms and as such it is able to adapt and analyze water flow changes.

Compared to large-format systems established in Vienna, CENTAUR can be installed gradually, first in areas with a high risk of flooding. The system was successfully tested in two locations, in Coimbra, Portugal and Toulouse, France.

A similar approach was taken by US Cincinnati, which wants to build "smart sewers". Due to budget constraints that restrain building new premises, available facilities needed to be used creatively. Smart sensors monitor the water level and redirect water to wherever the capacity is.

AI limitations

With AI systems, however, moral issues come into question. When the sewerage capacity is full, water must be drained elsewhere. Where? Will it be released out of town and flood the fields? Will we let water to significantly damage one part of the city to safe the other?

Will we let AI to make a decision for us? As AI does not have the moral capacity, therefore it can’t bare the decisions affecting a part of the population.

There are many questions yet to be answered, however there is one sure thing thatour climate is changing. If we do not prepare strategies to deal with the weather changes, the impacts will become more and more destructive. Nowadays, cities are looking for ways to minimize negative by using artificial intelligence. Are cities which will be presented at the Spring ITAPA Conference looking for innovative solutions as well? Come and ask their representatives.