City of Lakeland, Florida turns to IoT to improve flood prevention

City of Lakeland, Florida turns to IoT to improve flood prevention

Downtown Lakeland, as seen from Lake Mirror

Monitoring lake levels as part of wider flood prevention measures can be a time-consuming and costly task for city officials, but the IoT can help.

Scientists working for the City of Lakeland local government in Florida have been looking for new ways to keep an eye on water levels. As its name suggests, Lakeland is renowned for its many lakes – it boasts 38 named lakes, including Lake Parker, Lake Hollingsworth and Lake Mirror (pictured), and numerous other unnamed bodies of water, often disused phosphate mine pits.

With the need to monitor water levels in mind, city officials turned to connected technology from Sensus, which has been part of water technology specialist Xylem since it was acquired by the latter in August 2016. Already a Sensus customer, the City of Lakeland built on its investment in the Sensus FlexNet communications network, which connects IoT endpoints, to create remote water monitoring stations at two lakes, via the company’s Smart Gateway Sensor Interface.

Water level data

Using these technologies, city scientists can collect water level data quickly and efficiently in real-time. Before, they relied on largely manual procedures. With this data, technicians can then identify the lakes most likely to flood and install flood control structures.

With a pilot project involving the two lakes successfully completed, the city’s flood management team now has plans to bring the remote monitoring technology to nine more lakes in the city.

Laurie Smith, manager of the City of Lakeland’s Lakes and Stormwater Division, explained that her lake technician currently spends hours driving to each lake to ensure the levels aren’t too high. It’s resource-intensive but important work. 

“Maintaining balanced water levels is critical to avoid flooding in residential areas and conserve enough water for the dry season,” she said.“Our technician has to drive back and forth between eleven lakes and make sure the levels don’t get too high.”

Remote monitoring

“Our FlexNet system had all we needed to build a remote monitoring solution, allowing us to reap tremendous cost savings from not having to implement new infrastructure,” she added.

“Initially, we weren’t sure if the solution was going to be accurate enough, but it exceeded our expectations,” said Smith. “We also appreciate how easy it was to use. We’re lake scientists, not technology people, and we’ve been able to quickly and seamlessly use the technology to improve our monitoring capabilities.”

Although this system is still in the early stages, it’s already producing results for the team, Smith added.

“The monitoring process used to take up the majority of our technician’s time during the work week, but now that time has been reduced dramatically,” added Smith. “We’re extremely pleased with the results of the pilot and are looking forward to having this system installed at all our lakes.”