News & Views
An excerpt from "What’s Hot in Modeling Software" in Stormwater Magazine, April 2017
For some engineering consultants, traditional stormwater pond design can be one of the most frequent projects within their services portfolio. An engineer with prior experience can size and produce plans with assistance from modeling software, AutoCAD, and supporting tools with relative ease. But even very routine projects can benefit from modeling software improvements. McBade Engineers and Consultants, based in Youngsville, LA, recently deployed xpdrainage 2017 and have already experienced remarkable improvements in project efficiency.
This latest project involved designing the right stormwater pond for a subdivision to avoid stormwater flooding,” says Lucas Hudspeth, an engineering intern III at McBade. “We wanted to see how an active stormwater event runs in the model, checking if there are any unanticipated overflows or shortages and making sure the pond and its outlets are sized correctly.”
Hudspeth has found that xpdrainage 2017 is very user friendly and designed intuitively, including the interface. His prior experience with US Army Corps of Engineers’ HEC-RAS and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s HYDR drainage programs provided him basic initial familiarity with xpdrainage 2017, although this was his first experience using new software.
“It’s easier to navigate on xpdrainage than on other programs,” says Hudspeth. “When putting in elevations, pipe sizes, lengths of pipe, and so on, it’s all in a chart. It’s easy to follow and you don’t have to hunt around for the information.”
The xpdrainage 2017 interface employs standard ribbon and toolbox options organized around a typical workflow involved in designing stormwater facilities. As the user inputs information and completes actions, the interface responds accordingly and adapts its options, helping guide the user through the process. xpdrainage 2017 also seamlessly integrates with AutoCAD, making import and export of layout and facility details efficient and eliminating possible errors caused by manually transferring data between applications.
The large profile and plan views within the user interface facilitate visualization of design input, depicting spatial and connection properties of the proposed facilities. “Design is definitely easier on xpdrainage, and it’s more foolproof,” says Hudspeth. “If there is a mistake, it’s easier to spot. It’s also easier to check the design information if you’re a senior engineer, making sure everything is fluid and running correctly.”
This can be especially helpful when designing linked stormwater facilities. For this purpose, xpdrainage 2017 incorporates a treatment train approach to properly account for downstream water levels and their potential effects at each individual control.
Hudspeth has been very pleased with the new program and looks forward to employing it on future projects. “It’s a very capable and excellent drainage modeling program and a big time-saver for subdivision or residential developments. If there are stringent drainage requirements, it’s a lifesaver.”
You can read the complete article in Stormwater Magazine HERE.
by Matt Anderson, P.E., CFM
Earlier this year, a small, simple internet meme on Linkedin caught my eye. The meme contrasted the present state of “What is” and “What we need” against a future of the state of “What could be” and “What should be.” As I pondered this meme, a key unspoken element apparent to me is the requirement and ability to embrace change. Change can be difficult. Change is also known for being uncomfortable, stressful and fraught with uncertainty.
US Infrastructure has struggled for attention over recent years. This issue was most apparent recently in California with the eyes on the Oroville Dam bringing flood risk spending to the forefront. With the NFIP funding issues (Milloy, 2016), or the future of the NFIP (Precise Leads, 2017) and the reauthorization later this year (Congress), there are just some critical elements that need our attention. Almost two years ago, the State of Illinois found that “90% of urban flooding damage claims from 2007 to 2014 were outside the mapped floodplain.” (IDNR, 2015)
How do you address this crisis in US Infrastructure? The current Mayor of Chicago in 2008 clarified an earlier comment by saying, “never allow a good crisis to go to waste when it's an opportunity to do things that you had never considered, or that you didn't think were possible.” Many occupations make giant leaps and bounds in the means and methods as ways to solve problems during or after said crisis.
What prevents us from re-examining the means, methods, and regulations, that we, as engineers, utilize and rely upon to solve more problems than just conveyance?
Over the past few years, I have had the ability to travel across the US visiting various customers and clients and reviewing the workflow for design projects. This process was a deliberate, incremental implementation that focused on rapidly targeting smaller business goals into quick successes. We asked tough questions about what matters, when, what do you need and why. These tough questions help keep the focus on the problems – not on the tools used to solve the problem.
Too often we engineers limit ourselves to using tools and approaches that are familiar, despite the benefits available in alternatives. As engineers, we leverage Maslow’s Gavel and fit all problems using a single solitary tool or workflow. A book I read many years ago (The Machine That Changed the World : The Story of Lean Production) pushed me to step back, refocus on the problem and challenge the assumptions of “What is,” so as to begin to answer the question of “What should be.”
Have you asked yourselves these questions? What hinders the inertia to consider what should be?
For example, the most recent release of xpswmm/xpstorm 2017.1 includes the ability to perform simulations in parallel to save a considerable amount of time. If you run four different storms with two design scenarios, the machine (if so equipped) could complete 8x faster than prior version. The Solve Manager enables the ability to generate additional scenarios, therefore empowering the engineer with the ability to consider more design variability.
By building a better understanding using simulations, it releases you to make better judgments for your projects. What is your journey? What do you see in the engineering world that "should be"? I look forward to hearing from you.
IDNR. (2015). The Report for the Urban Flooding Awareness Act. University of Illinois: State of Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Milloy, M. (2016, March 9). The NFIP is Due for Some Major Reforms. Retrieved from American Action Forum: https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/the-nfip-is-due-for-some-major-reforms/
Precise Leads. (2017, January 17). Reinsurance Funding Revives the NFIP. Retrieved from PreciseLeads.com: http://go.preciseleads.com/reinsurance-funding-revives-nfip
The Mecury News. (2017, March 22). Report: California faces significant flood risk and funding shortfalls. Retrieved from The Mecrury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/03/22/report-california-faces-significant-flood-risk-and-funding-shortfalls/
by Tony Kuch, MSc
More than twenty years ago I wrote a Master’s Thesis about software tools that could be put together with EPA SWMM to create a toolbox for very long term continuous simulation for stormwater and watershed simulations. I was inspired at the time by Dr. William James who was my advisor for that research. At that time typical stormwater design and modeling (analysis) employed the rational method or a regional design storm approach. Continuous simulation was not typically used even though we had such computational capabilities for about 20 years.
Fast forward to today and there is still too much use of the Rational method and design storms. Perhaps they have their place in sizing a culvert based on conveyance or some onsite detention in the case of a design storm. However, there is simply too much misuse since these methods ignore the physical processes that are occurring. It is simply not appropriate to use such a method to design stormwater systems when storage is a significant component of the system or when there is sensitive downstream receiving waters to name just a couple cases. The rational method produces a peak flow and using that flow value in design ignores the natural attenuation that would occur to storage effects in the system and can even result in under design.
I am happy to see in many locations the analysis and design of stormwater systems using continuous simulation. For example, in Portland Oregon it is commonplace to use continuous simulation for analyzing the performance of Low Impact Development (LID) and combined sewer overflow mitigation. This allows a much better representation of the physical system such as a changing infiltration rate and recovery of infiltration during dry periods.
A few years ago where I live we hit flood stage in a few of our city’s creeks and small rivers. But it was not any single day’s rainfall accumulation but rather a really wet month. The back-to-back storms in the winter when the evaporation was low, the infiltration low and lack of surface storage is what lead to damaging flows. Only a continuous simulation can capture this, since continuous simulation tools based on SWMM or HSPF model what happens during the dry periods. This ability removes the agonizing antecedent moisture condition that must be approximated since it simulates it based on continuous meteorological input. Want to really understand system performance for a 10% or 5% chance storm? Just run a 50 year rainfall record or at a minimum run a “wet” year that contains a significant storm. The excuses of no rainfall data or it takes too long to run or setup are no longer reasonable. A second example is the performance of LID structures. How much benefit is realized if a bio retention facility can manage the 6 month return period runoff volume but not return to an acceptable dry condition in time for the next storm?
In the case of sensitive downstream receiving waters it is becoming common to perform a “Hydromodification Analysis” using continuous simulation and a statistical assessment of the flow durations. If your design simply addresses the addition of storage to reduce the peak flow to a predevelopment peak flow then your engineered system will produce much longer durations of flows that can impact downstream. For example along the west coast and great lakes areas of North America it is becoming a requirement to perform a Hydromodification study to protect the cold water fisheries. To simply “peak shave” to the predevelopment flow may produce long durations of flows that will cause stream bank erosion and habitat change.
My employment allows me to travel to many parts of the world and teach Hydrologic and Hydraulic modeling. We interact with many engineers and learn about their methods and standards. Unfortunately, too many places are requiring or mandating simple methods for Hydrology which is leaving us with significant downstream and receiving water impairment. Consulting engineers seem required to follow very dated stormwater manuals from counties and cities; and while their designs may be compliant we still have poor quality lakes, creeks and rivers. There is a lot of inertia to overcome to get the requirements to the state of the art. We can and should do better. Continuous simulation and Hydromodification are two keys for us to up our game and make our stormwater assets great again.
by Zach Sample, P.E.
A Request for Startups post on January 3rd on the Y Combinator Blog caught my eye. The blogger talked about the need to prepare for things to get worse with regard to climate change, and called for applications for funding from those working on new technologies that could inexpensively produce clean water.
Being someone with a background in Water Resources Engineering, water in the environment and its part in the cycle of life is near and dear to my heart. Current water-related events in our world have shown that even when water is abundant (which isn’t always the case), we often still can’t drink it. Not only is safe drinking water an underappreciated and terribly important need (see Flint’s problem, which is still ongoing!) but safe non-potable water of all kinds is a litmus test for the health of our society.
What really piqued my interest was the concept that innovation within the greater water resources realm is at a point where small ideas and support could lead to large positive change for everyone. Change doesn’t require huge or costly innovation or technology. Successful startups disrupt and/or energize established market components. The Request for Startups post illustrated to me the built up potential that is waiting to be unleashed in the water resources realm.
Here at home, I generally spend a majority of my time considering the various facets of stormwater engineering – how we plan, design, construct, utilize, demolish and reuse the world around us and how stormwater is affected or alternatively affects the various parts of the infrastructure lifecycle. I recognize that there is still a lot I don’t know and a lot of habits I have professionally that could use more critical analysis. What small thing could I do that might impact the larger picture?
It got me thinking about which professional education opportunity I could pursue, conference I could engage in and local company or team practice I could improve. Once I started looking there were a range of things that I could easily accomplish that could make positive impacts far beyond just myself or even my company. I’ll be presenting this year at Stormcon and the Ohio Stormwater Conference, and listening to ideas and input from other stormwater professionals that we might use to improve software tools – which could in turn help people improve our infrastructure. I’m learning why habits are so hard to change in “The Power of Habit”. Change can be great but it’s almost never easy. I ask to sit in on meetings with departments outside my team to learn how they overcome challenges in what they do to see if I could use their ideas. This is just my starting point.
With that I raise a call to action:
Look around yourself in your work/life and consider what small practices or habits you could improve upon. Keep in mind that when it comes to water resources, small changes can have a big collective impact. Private engineers, city officials, contractors, permit reviewers, surveyors, and the industry sector as a whole work together on stormwater issues by communicating and implementing their individual portion of the greater process. Small improvements, small boosts in efficiency or clarity of communication impact the larger process. Find something that will engage you, enlighten you or simply make your work easier – I imagine you will have a lot of fun and we will all benefit from your innovative contribution. Thank you for that.
by Venu Kandiah, PhD, P.E.
The effort required to develop water resources engineering models can be significant. But once developed, in many instances the models are only evaluated for a limited, or a single set of conditions. The results and predictions obtained from these evaluations are the ones used in design, presented in reports and conveyed to decision makers and the public. This approach might serve the immediate needs of a project; however, for most modeling efforts a limited amount of additional effort can provide more knowledge and understanding at a low marginal cost to that required to develop the model itself.
Advances in the hydrological sciences and in the areas of climate change, which are providing new insight into the foundational data used in the models, and advances in computational modeling and computational resources that increase overall reliability and capacity of modeling methods provide additional reasons to get more out of models. In many instances, for decision makers and the general public, a single outcome is often all that is associated with the overall modeling effort. Modelers should aim to deliver more, and in the process can increase the value and insight that modeling brings to the decision making processes and engineering project, and increase the profile of the modeling practice in general.
The traditional approach of reporting model outcomes based on a limited set of runs need to be reconsidered for a number of reasons. For example, flood extents might be evaluated using a “design storm”, or stormwater facilities sized using a continuous simulation covering a long term period for which rainfall records and other records needed for model development and calibration are available. Reported results are often assumed to be accurate, and fail to properly convey the uncertainties associated with them. Beyond the limitations of the model itself, there is inherent uncertainty in the parameters and boundary conditions used: inaccuracies exist in model data inputs.
Hydrological models used in the engineering community are underpinned by the idea of stationarity, the concept that hydrological systems operate within a window that can be established from past records. Research indicates that hydrological trends are changing. Climate change, and changes associated with development, are impacting rainfall, evapotranspiration and stream flows. Means and other statistical measures for these parameters, obtained from historical records, and assumed to be good descriptors for these parameters might no longer be valid in light of observed increased variability and extremes in hydrological events.
To ensure that users of model results are fully aware of the limitations in model results, modelers should attempt to better convey the variability and possible wide range of outcomes given uncertainties. This can be achieved by running a large number of model evaluations, and conducting more rigorous sensitivity analysis exercises. In the past limitations in computational power and computing acted as a constraint and provided a justification to limit model runs. Advances in computing (better numerical methods and algorithms), desktop computer technology (increased processing power and speeds, the advent of multi-core machines and graphical processing units) and computational models allow a greater number and more accurate models to be run in shorter amounts of time by modelers . Multiple evaluations can be done, ranging from a few scenarios using scenario-builder tools, to running an ensemble of models to numerous evaluations for parameter estimation.
Mauger G.S., et al., “State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound”, Report prepared for the Puget Sound Partnership and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington (2015).
Milly P.C.D., et al., “Stationarity Is Dead: Whither Water Management?”, Science, Vol 319 (2008).
Peel M.C., and Bloschl, G., “Hydrological modeling in a changing world.”, Progress in Physical Geography, Vol 35(2), 2011.
by Anthony Kuch, MSc
On a recent flight to instruct at one of our xpswmm/xpstorm training workshops that we hold around the country, I had the opportunity to connect on the airline's Wi-Fi. As we crossed the country I could see that we would hit certain landmarks or points, make adjustments to our route, and then proceed on an arc of the shortest path until we were close to the destination. From the point of near arrival there were several turns as we dovetailed with other aircraft, made the final decent into headwinds, arrived at the correct runway and then proceeded to the gate.
This had me thinking about the importance of professional training and the many positive experiences I have had both as the instructor and as an occasional attendee. I can see a correlation between the adjustments on that flight path and those that happen to the students of a professional workshop. Students' experience levels vary, with some of them being further along on their journey to being an expert modeler than others. Each of them have their own perspective and takeaways of understanding to becoming more productive modelers.
They learn some fundamental principles which clarify the "why" of model choices. Being self-taught without significant reading in reference manuals leads software users to rely on observations and make assumptions on those observations. Many years ago in our technical support department I remember speaking with someone who had a model with 15% model continuity error. He mentioned that he thought it was a reasonable amount due to the amount of infiltration in the Runoff mode. He falsely assumed this numerical loss was akin to the infiltration loss. At that time I explained what the error actually was and that it is after an accounting of infiltration. However, if the person had been to a training course they would have learned the true definition, actions to reduce the error and acceptable range of error.
While that would have been a major course correction early on the journey, I have many experiences about minor corrections even from the most experienced modelers.
I recently taught at an FMA-sponsored training in southern California. The group (see photo) were very specialized in the regional approach to modeling Hydrology and Hydraulics, while my modeling background includes influence from Australia, Canada and the diverse USA. It was important for me as an instructor to listen and cater to the needs of the class since the regional focus and the experience of the class members was primarily with software specifically related to Southern California. The feedback from the class was very positive especially about two main things:
I recently attended training as a student and welcomed the opportunity to gain insight to other hydraulic tools, to network with other attendees and also learn about software features. I was able to ask questions that I thought were unique to me and my focus but found them to have a common interest with the other attendees.
I look forward to applying my new skills and understanding. In my professional flight path, I have made a course correction and am now heading in the right direction. I will leverage my learning time and gain building better models faster so that I can pass this on to other growing experts.
The way that we choose to navigate our modeling decisions is important, and we at XP are dedicated to making sure that our users have all of the navigation tools possible so that they make corrections early and arrive at the most accurate and appropriate destinations.
Read more about XP Solutions Public Training Workshops.
by Greg Kowalsky
I recently joined XP Solutions as Vice President Americas. I’m excited to lead a team dedicated to water resources and advancing the industry with leading software tools. There is a strong desire at XP to make a real difference in the world with the work we do. We recognize that we can only have a positive impact on water resources if we improve the efficiency or capability of our engineering customers. This requires a strong partnership with our users. One of my goals at XP Solutions is to advance an already strong partnership and further develop the two-way dialogue to speed the enhancement of our products.
Previous to XP Solutions, I spent a decade focused on stormwater and developing progressive solutions to meet evolving regulations. During this time the progression of LID advanced and is now common practice. One area that hasn’t kept pace with this evolution is design tools for Civil Engineers working at the site level. Many of our customers still use basic programs, CAD modules, or local calculators based on Excel to aid the design process. While engineers have several options for modeling flood and stormwater for larger watersheds, these tools aren’t focused on site design and meeting stormwater regulations associated with land development.
XP Solutions has been providing design tools for civil engineers in the United Kingdom for years. We are also experts at stormwater and 2D urban flood modeling. We are very excited to match these two capabilities with xpdrainage, our automated stormwater design tool to aid civil engineers doing site design on land development projects. We want to transform the industry and provide a powerful, flexible tool that shortens the design cycle, integrates with CAD and GIS, and provides the right data to meet regulatory requirements that continue to evolve.
xpdrainage 2016.2 will be released this summer and we have several new features that will allow engineers to design faster, more accurately, and to quickly adapt to project changes. But we're not done. In fact, we’ll never be done. This is where the partnership with our customers comes in. We want our customers to participate in the future of xpdrainage and help transform the site design process along the way. We are forming an xpdrainage Customer Advisory Team to provide key input and help steer future capabilities. Here is what we are looking for:
You’ll be part of a team that has direct input to the xpdrainage Product Manager for future feature enhancements, gets a first look at new releases ... and we can probably provide some XP swag from time to time!
If you want to join this team, or work with someone who you think would be a good fit, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing from the engineers that want to help shape the future of stormwater site design!
by Zach Sample, P.E.
Conversation at the 2016 SESWA Stormwater BMPs, LID and Green Infrastructure Seminar in Atlanta GA that I attended recently touched upon the idea of computers taking our jobs and ‘Engineering Bots’. This has of course happened in other industries, but I didn’t anticipate it happening in the stormwater planning, design and management world.
During a session break I chatted with a few colleagues who saw information on the ‘one click’ Runoff Reduction optimizing feature we implemented as part of the xpdrainage 2016 release. There was a lot of interest in what it can do and eventually someone made the joke that one might ‘optimize’ their way out of a job, which led to a discussion about what IBM’s supercomputer ‘Deep Blue’ would look like as a civil designer. Considering that my profession centers on the development of software tools to help engineers do their job faster and more efficiently, I got stuck on the idea that (even in jest) - would automated stormwater design harm the people we hope to help? Could we actually ‘optimize’ someone’s job away?
The answer: absolutely not.
In fact, I see the creation of these tools as only creating less flawed, more elegant solutions to infrastructure problems that we often address rather clumsily. These tools are created with the idea of a human being making the creative and educated choices while the software conforms the design to those choices.
Here’s what I mean: with our latest release of xpdrainage, the focus is on clarity, automation and optimization. Rather than having separate tools for different teams (spreadsheet, AutoCAD, hand calcs, maybe a hydrology software program) in order to design a treatment train or multiple-BMP site, we’ve created a solution that brings it all together so that the entire design is transparent and easy to understand. Input for treatment and conveyance systems are locked into the plan view so that all stormwater controls are represented on plan, to scale and in the proposed location. This frees the designer from risk of inappropriately placed or sized BMPs in the final deliverable.
Runoff Reduction reporting and sizing automation take another big step toward automated optimization. Select the facilities on the site that are targeted to retain the site’s water quality volume and click a button to match the facility dimensions to meet the connected Inflow Area runoff.
While this is a foolproof (and fast) sizing tool, the design isn’t done! The Runoff Reduction event is only the start of the stormwater design process. The larger Protection Events need to be accounted for and safely, responsibly managed. In addition to Runoff Reduction and Protection Event sizing, xpdrainage provides a single place for streamlined high flow bypass conveyance, outlet configurations and treatment train configurations.
xpdrainage reduces the potential for mistakes and makes parts of the workflow faster so that you, the engineer, can spend your time making creative and educated decisions.
In summary, the 2016 release of xpdrainage will let you…
Save some time?
Improve your reputation and help you feel more confident in your stormwater design?
Lose a project bid to an Artificial Intelligence Super Computer?
by Netsanet Mebrate, PhD
The updated SuDS Manual has now been out for a while, with a complete rewrite of the last manual that was created around 2007. The new manual answers most of the technically challenging questions regarding SuDS (also called Low Impact Development or Water Sensitive Urban Design).
The famous SuDS triangle has now become the SuDS square, encompassing water quantity, water quality, amenity and biodiversity. These four components are all presented with specific design criteria to be attained and identifies the detail needed. This accomplishment is one positive step forward in the long journey towards making SuDS acceptable as a norm for providing drainage on new or redeveloped sites.
Although a significant part of the drainage industry positively recognises SuDS as an opportunity to deliver multiple benefits, the battle to convince some parts of the drainage industry is yet to be won. Most of the resistance originates from groundless myths such as:
Though most of the data we see debunks these myths, a considerable amount of work is still required to convince the entire drainage community. The onus is on all SuDS advocates to preach to the unconverted in order to bring about a paradigm shift on the viability of SuDS as a real and sustainable alternative to traditional drainage.
The beauty of SuDS is not only the accomplishment of a sustainable drainage scheme but in that it will also force drainage to be considered at the forefront of a development. Studies show that considering drainage earlier in the development process can actually increase savings when using sustainable drainage measures. Drainage should not be considered as a problem simply to be mitigated, but rather as a resource that will help to deliver multiple benefits. This is accomplished by the collaborative efforts of engineers, landscape architects and urban designers working in cooperation, drawing upon the skills and experience that each discipline provides to deliver a win-win solution for all stakeholders.
One of the ways to convince the sceptics is the development of cutting edge technological solutions. Being able to create and model a design to deliver a range of SuDS schemes for urban environments as efficiently, robustly, credibly and as quickly as traditional drainage, will remove one of the barriers to achieving universal acceptance of SuDS. Moreover, the development of technology that is acceptable to both designers and approving authorities will be an added advantage.
To that end, MicroDrainage has been able to leverage on the great wealth of knowledge and experience acquired over the last 35 years dealing with traditional drainage design to come up with a technological solution for designing SuDS schemes within the United Kingdom and similar markets. The ability to holistically simulate fully integrated SuDS networks in a similar fashion to designing traditional networks has now been made possible.
Further, newer xpdrainage can help users automatically design sustainable drainage networks in a treatment train approach that makes SuDS/LID/WSUD design much faster and accurate than most traditional methods of design.
Do you fully participate in sustainable drainage design? If not, what are the hurdles that you face in implementing sustainable practices?
XP Solutions is excited to announce our business partnership with Hydroingenieria in Colombia. Located in Floridablanca, Santander, Colombia, Hydroingenieria is a company of multi-disciplinary engineering services for civil engineering and environmental consulting. They are a small business that works with a network of experts in niche areas of geology, hydrology, hydrogeology, geophysics, flood management and engineering. Welcome to the XP Solutions family!
Visit the Hydroingenieria website here.