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Rain gauge system proposed for Columbia sewer problems

Bernt Rostad

A retired sewer division superintendent is urging Columbia to invest in high-tech rain gauges that would allow people to monitor rainfall online in real-time.

Former city employee Bill Weitkemper attended an Energy and Environment Commission meeting Tuesday night to urge commission members to bring the issue to City Council.

“Citizens have complained lately about having water in their basement through both sanitary sewer backups and storm water overflows,” Weitkemper said. “And if you can determine what the magnitude of the problem is – you know, how much it’s rained – then you can determine whether or not you’re effective in managing it.”

Weitkemper said installing 20-30 rain gauges throughout Columbia would help the city manage large amounts of rainfall, like residents have seen this year.

According to the Missouri Climate Center, this May was the wettest in 11 years. Parts of the state, including Boone County, saw around 10 inches of rain in May.

Weitkemper said Columbia should model the rain gauges after a system in Springfield, Missouri, which has a real-time website where residents there can login and check the status of more than 30 gauges. He said he estimates the project would cost $50,000 in Columbia.

“They’re kind of automatic rain gauges where you don’t have to have someone come out and dump the rain gauge every so often. They dump themselves” Weitkemper said. “They’ve got a monitoring system set up where you can monitor it over a computer, so you know at any given time how much it’s rained.”

Rhett Hartman, a resident who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said the gauges could potentially be used by multiple local, state and federal agencies.

“Rain gauges may give the city a better grasp of what’s really happening,” Hartman said. “They can better understand where they put their infrastructure changes and whether they build or modify things.”

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