Adaptive Drains

During Akron Civic Hackathon 2014, I shared the idea of adaptive drains with City of Akron team members. This text will elaborate “Adaptive Drains” further for the world at large.


Today’s drains in cities provide an interface between rain falling from the sky and where it needs to go – hopefully a lake or our great oceans in some cases. They do so however, using primitive designs. Most drains have poor ‘filtering of trash’ abilities, so naturally if you have a lot of rainfall, with a lot of man-made litter, conditions are ripe for flooding.

Critique of the existing design

The purpose a drain serves is to take away water quickly. The existing sewer intakes were laid out long time ago and for the most part deliver value to the citizens during normal conditions.

But, with changing climate patterns, these same vanilla sewer intakes fail to adapt with their changing environmental conditions – especially when we receive 100 year massive rainfalls.

It bothers the author that having such immense advances in the fields of mechanical, electrical, electronic and industrial designs, we have somehow managed to ignore the design of the current drains in our cities. So, basically its high time we spent some time thinking about this problem.

Adaptive Drains

I define adaptive drains like so: “A drain that remains closed when there is nothing to remove, removes more water when it senses a greater flow of it, thereby rendering our great cities un-floodable”.

Challenges, Conversations and a Silly Plan

There are a lot of challenges when it comes to bringing our drains to the modern century.

  • Who’s paying for getting our drains to adapt to their environment?
  • CityA is un-floodable, well, what happens to CityB if its much lower grade? (This came from City of Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic himself!)

As I find more challenges, and solutions to these challenges, I’ll be sure to update this section.

This text is being authored in 2014. A quick google search on the topic finds a lot of similar thoughts online by academics and entities.

I’d like feedback from engineers in whatever scientific faculties on the matter, as I do have a plan in the short-term.

My plan is to:

  1. build a true scale model of City of Akron’s above the grade terra, and the sewer systems with the sewer intakes represented as close to reality as possible using clear pvc piping.
  2. Next task will be flooding the model – if it happens in real life, getting a model to flood would be a walk in the park.
  3. The following step however, I will need help with – replacing the vanilla sewer intakes with an adaptive drain, to demonstrate value – civic as well as business.

Can cities never witness flooding ever? I am optimist – and choose to say yes.

If you think the same, contact me – would like to work on this idea socially with you.

One thought on “Adaptive Drains

  1. What about hindering the flow of water, reclaiming it in cisterns. Or in other words just using space that can be used to slow the need for increased capacity. It may be easier to retrofit existing lines with these overflow time stretching measures…

    There is also talk about groundwater not being replaced because we shuttle so much of it in artificail flows. Maybe the cisterns don’t have a bottom and allow water to seep down. This both reduces the need for increased capacity and addresses the issue involved with water not having sufficient time to be absorbed into the ground.

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