In August, the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center launched RainSnap, a program that enlists volunteers to monitor the state’s stormwater and green infrastructure. The program is funded by grants from the Restore America’s Estuaries’ Southeast New England Program.
RainSnap asks volunteers and paid contributors to upload videos that provide insight on whether infrastructure “is performing the way it is intended to perform,” said Ryan Kopp, the center’s director.
Around 200 videos have been uploaded to RainSnap’s website so far. The information provided by the videos has been “very useful” to owners and operators of stormwater infrastructure, Kopp said.
The videos serve as an invaluable resource to the design and engineering community as well as municipal departments, as “they can make changes, at least from the maintenance side of things, (if a) site isn't taking in water the way it’s supposed to,” Kopp explained.
The program also directly engages community members, teaching them how stormwater and green infrastructure functions to mitigate flooding and other water-related damages, Kopp said.
RainSnap was “a high-priority project for funding,” said Tom Ardito, director of the Southeast New England Watershed Grants Program.
Ardito said that SNEP is an “umbrella program” that provides funding, coordination and technical assistance to projects related to clean water, healthy ecosystems and sustainable community development. “It’s a very competitive program,” he added.
Contributing videos to RainSnap is a rewarding experience, said Lindsay Dulude, a RainSnap volunteer.
“It’s really cool that you can go to different sites and see just by looking at them which ones are working well and which ones aren’t,” she said. “You are gathering that feedback in real-time and making real assessments and impacting how those sites will function in the future.”
Jeff Silva, a RainSnap volunteer and long-time Providence resident, has noticed efforts to improve water management in the city over the years and “wanted to see what was being done to make that happen,” he said. “I just enjoy seeing what has been done to make the world way better.”
Silva has been monitoring around 10 sites close to his residence for the program. “I’m certainly going to keep doing it,” he said.
“The long-term goal would be to just continue to add more green infrastructure locations” to the program, Kopp said. “Maybe the next step would be to expand it to all of Rhode Island.”
Through videos submitted by volunteers, “you can really see every intricate part of how stormwater is flowing,” Kopp said. “Everybody says a picture’s worth 1000 words. Videos are worth like 20 million words.”