Can Smart Stormwater Systems Outsmart the Weather? Stormwater Capture with Real-Time Control in Southern California

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Stormwater capture systems have the potential to address many urban stormwater management challenges, particularly in water-scarce regions like Southern California. Here, we investigate the potential best-case limits of water supply and stormwater retention benefits delivered by a 10,000 m3 stormwater capture system equipped with real-time control (RTC) on a university campus in Southern California. Using a copula-based conditional probability analysis, two performance metrics (percent of water demand satisfied and the percent of stormwater runoff captured) are benchmarked relative to (1) precipitation seasonality (historical rainfall and a counterfactual in which the same average annual rainfall is distributed evenly over the year); (2) annual precipitation (dry, median, and wet years); and (3) three RTC algorithms (no knowledge of future rainfall or perfect knowledge of future rainfall 1 or 2 days in advance). RTC improves stormwater retention, particularly for the highly seasonal rainfall patterns in Southern California, but not water supply. Improvements to the latter will likely require implementing stormwater capture RTC in conjunction with other stormwater infrastructure innovations, such as spreading basins for groundwater recharge and widespread adoption of green stormwater infrastructure.