What is Sewer Sociology?

Sewers are an important part of our society.  They serve to promote public health, protect the environment, and support economic growth within our communities.  They also happen to provide a unique view into everyday life, and thus the connection between sewers and sociology.  Sewer sociology is defined as:

“The science of society, social institutions, and social relationships viewed through the eyes of a sewer; specifically:  the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective sewer use of organized groups of human beings.” Adapted from the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (2004).  Merriam-Webster, Springfield, MA

Sewer Sociology has direct applications to sewer design, hydraulic modeling, and real-time control:

Forecasting sewer flow rates is an important part of sewer design, and these design assumptions are often based on published or regulated per capita values. A closer look reveals that the underlying assumptions are often limited and/or dated. Sewer Sociology offers the opportunity to confirm or update per capita sewer use for a variety of land use characteristics.

Modeling dry weather sewer performance requires knowledge of anticipated diurnal patters from various land use areas, and the information available to hydraulic modelers in this regard is often limited. Sewer Sociology offers the opportunity to develop a library of diurnal patters to sharpen the performance of hydraulic models.

Real-time alarming and real-time control of sewer systems requires knowledge of subtle shifts in dirunal patterns that naturally occur in sewer systems. It is a weekday or weekend? Is it a holiday? Are local schools in session or out for a break? All of these conditions result in unique signatures in sewer use patterns which can affect real-time alarming and real-time control.


The Powerful Perception Behind Sewer Sociology

April 29, 2011 was a big day for the British – the much-anticipated Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

A Royal Wedding is the type of event that captivates a nation . . . and reveals itself in sewer flow data. Flow monitor data from a residential area near London are shown here. The wedding took place on a Friday – which was also designated as a Bank Holiday in the United Kingdom. To a sewer sociologist, a holiday looks much like a weekend, so the effect of the Royal Wedding on sewer use is determined by comparing the wedding day to a typical weekend.

Note that sewer flows began to depart from normal soon after the first guests arrived at Westminster Abbey, as many residents discontinued their normal routine and tuned in to television coverage. Residential flows returned to normal by 2:00 PM – about half an hour after the official Royal Kiss on the balcony at Buckingham Palace.

Four Week Hydrograph

This hydrograph displays flow monitor data from a residential area recorded over a four week period during normal dry weather conditions.  Note that a repeatable daily or diurnal pattern is observed.