Floodplain and Stormwater Mobile Phone Development, City of Lubbock, Texas

Like many utilities, the City of Lubbock Storm Water Management department has experienced some declining performance (through erosion and structural compromise) from stormwater and flood control structures over time. While the City has been able to address major concerns and provide a good level of service to date, Lubbock is interested in becoming more proactive in managing (and preventing) potential problems in the future.

Due to the size of the scope of drainage structures (roughly 135 playa lakes with up to 15 outfalls each) and a limited budget, the City was interested in exploring options that leverage low-cost technologies to increase the efficiency of data capture and review. Plummer was selected to provide a system for collecting, storing, and scoring drainage outfalls throughout the City.

Plummer built custom additions for a smartphone application, database server, application server, and web map server. Each of these four applications are completely free and open-source platforms, meaning that the City does not need to pay capital software or licensing costs to operate the system. The application can even work without an active cell phone contract, reducing costs of the entire system down to the cell phone ($100 for this project). Spatial accuracy can be further improved through low-cost Bluetooth GPS receivers, providing a sub‐meter accurate system for less than $200 with no ongoing costs. The entire system is hosted securely on the cloud, providing user access throughout the project.

The phone application allows the City to take photographs and document the condition and criticality of an outfall structure by way of custom user forms and submit that data in real time. The photographs are compiled into a single PDF, each with geographic and site information written directly on the photographs (latitude, longitude, bearing, location, date, et cetera). The application also immediately calculates a score for each asset based on predefined risk attributes. This begins the office assessment of the outfall while still in the field. The database and web map server allow the data to be integrated into enterprise software (ESRI or other) or web maps directly.

The original scope of the project was to review up to 100 locations for condition, criticality, and overall performance. Plummer partnered with a local engineering firm (AMD Engineering) in Lubbock to collect the data. With no previous experience using the technology, AMD collected data on almost 200 locations using less than the original fee dedicated to the task. The additional locations were used to provide an overall condition assessment for different types of outfall structure (pipe, flume, dam, et cetera) throughout different areas of the City.

The final phase of the project provides recommendations to address structural deficiencies (as well as provide guidelines to reduce or eliminate the problems in future construction) for all of the types of locations surveyed. This risk‐based approach has an added advantage of providing an objective prioritization schedule for the City to begin addressing the recommendations of the project.