AI/Computer Vision for Sewer Workforce Development

December 28, 2022
Greg Baird, MPA
APWA Reporter - January 2022

AI/Computer Vision for Sewer Workforce Development

Gregory Baird, MPA, M.aff ASCE, AWAM, President, Water Finance Research Foundation

Artificial Intelligence can sound like a lot of hype and even “fake” until it can actually provide some practical benefit for the public works director. It would seem like some AI could provide some human assistance in some of the areas of workforce development including training, retention and labor savings on boring repetitive tasks where accuracy can prevent failures and even save money. So, what about the practical application in the sewer department where IT complains about lacking data storage for endless sewer pipe CCTV video, staff raises concerns over the quality of video from CCTV contractors and lacks the time to conduct proper audits? What about the training issue of tackling the huge learning curve in memorizing the 226 NASSCO PACP defect codes and the 20% error rate of CCTV operators missing sewer and lateral pipe defects—when the entire sewer collection system’s rehab program relies on correct labeling? All this at a time when affordability concerns suppress needed rate increases and veteran staff announce their retirement plans and younger candidates jump ship to neighboring tech-savvy utilities.

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