Water as a Barometer of Climate Change & Buoyant’s Investment in StormSensor
Water is a Barometer of Climate Change
Water is an early barometer of climate change; too much or too little is a root cause of many climate disasters. We have seen the direct impact of this through the increasing intensity of rainfall worldwide, causing flooding in many parts of the US, Germany, and China, to name a few. Extreme rainfall is deadly, drowning people in their homes and cars and wiping out entire neighborhoods.
Climate change impacts flooding as average higher average temperatures increase the amount of water the air can hold causing more frequent and more intense rainfall during storms. This affects climate regions differently. In the US, we have seen precipitation from the heaviest 1% of storms increase by 42% in the Midwest and 55% in the Northeast over the last five decades (GLISA Extreme Precipitation) and an increase in total extreme precipitation across the country, as illustrated below (Prepare for more downpours).
A recent study showed that over one-third of the cost of flood damages in the US was caused by increased precipitation and flood damages, resulting in $73 billion of damages between 1998 to 2017.
Like many impacts of climate change, flooding hits vulnerable populations the hardest this includes renters, minorities, and low-income communities, affected by systemic factors of race and poverty that caused historic underinvestment in infrastructure and is only expected to increase.
Deafening alarm bells require adaptation
Unfortunately, the alarm bells are loudly ringing, and while we work to mitigate future climate change, we must adapt to save lives and livelihoods now. This means collecting better data on the volume and timing of water moving through our water infrastructure, using software to develop better insights on managing extreme precipitation events, and using both to upgrade aging infrastructure then. These alarm bells have led Buoyant to make its first fund investment in StormSensor.
StormSensor, adapting water infrastructure in the face of climate change with data and software
StormSensor provides real-time data and modeling for stormwater and wastewater infrastructure to bring high-resolution insights to water managers and infrastructure planners. In the past, most data collected has been manual, which meant the impact of storms, tides, new constructions, or green infrastructure was difficult or impossible to observe or very expensive. It was also not available to the water infrastructure managers in real-time, during the storms, to do anything to prevent urban flooding. By collecting superior data and layering on software to produce insights, StormSensor enables cities to understand issues impacting their infrastructure, respond better during storms, and ensure that capital-intensive (sometimes billion-dollar) infrastructure projects are designed correctly and efficiently.
StormSensor CEO, Erin Rothman, is an engineer/scientist at heart and brings both passion and commitment to the company. She is a highly respected stormwater consultant with over a decade of experience in the space, time that has provided her with impressive domain expertise. She not only deeply understands the issues her clients are facing but also speaks the same language and has no aversion to going into the sewer pipes herself when the occasion has called for it. We’ve watched her manage her team through Covid and have witnessed examples of deep respect and admiration from her co-workers and partners.
As we’ve noted, the current threat of increasing storm intensity and flood risk leaves us no other option but to adapt to this threat. The barometer of climate change has sounded the warning and indicates that we must act to protect against the loss of life and livelihood. We see StormSensor as a critical tool for communities to adapt and reduce the impact of urban flooding and the environmental damage of releasing sewage into lakes and rivers.
Welcome to the Buoyant Boat!
We are so excited to welcome Erin and her team into the Buoyant boat and hope that we can be all hands on deck to support them as they help communities become more climate-resilient.