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Utility Representation


Southeast Michigan


Flood/water level monitoring

Air quality monitoring

Flood/water level monitoring

One of the most consequential climate and sustainability issues facing Dearborn is flooding. Since 2014, Dearborn residents have experienced not one, not two, but three hundred-year storms. With the changing climate, the frequency of these storms is only expected to increase.

While the floods devastated personal property, they also highlighted how the cost to the City and residents went far beyond the price of cleanup. Response times from emergency personnel, city staff, and aid workers were delayed as there was no clear way to determine the locations or extent of the flooding in real time. City officials were clear: lost time is far too costly when it comes to flood response.

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So, what is our solution to curb delays and strengthen the City’s flood mitigation efforts? Information. Specifically, providing the City with clear, actionable, and real-time data on rainfall and river conditions through a network of water-level sensors created by our local program partner, Hyfi.

The sensors, installed near critical assets and historic flood points throughout the city, use sonar to measure water depth and transmit the readings to a dashboard—answering the questions of “Where?” “When?” and “How much?” instantly. Dearborn’s dashboard will be customized to alert city staff when water levels reach warning thresholds and illustrate impacts with real-time flood maps, providing emergency response teams with ample time to plan new routes, move equipment to higher ground, and share early warnings with residents.

While this deployment doesn’t prevent flooding—that will require significant infrastructure investment along the entire watershed—it will provide the city with more information to inform short- and long-term actions for flood response. With this information comes time: time to make critical emergency decisions, time to allocate toward other activities, and time to plan for additional investments that may reduce flooding impacts over time. Our work aims to complement the city’s existing flood mitigation efforts and highlight the benefits of a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to flood management.

Air quality monitoring

The average person takes about 20,000 breaths per day. That’s 20,000 opportunities to replenish the lungs so you can laugh, sing, play, or simply take in your surroundings with ease. Unfortunately, for many Michigan residents, those breaths also represent 20,000 opportunities for harmful pollutants to enter the body.

This is especially true in Dearborn. The economic foundation of the modern automotive industry is also home to one of the most polluted zip codes in the state. The health impacts of poor air quality spurred by nearby heavy industry and freeway traffic aren’t merely theoretical. Area residents—particularly children—experience substantially higher asthma rates than elsewhere in Michigan, and adult hospitalization levels are almost double that of the state average.

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Dearborn’s Department of Public Health, along with local program partner JustAir, is committed to increasing the quality of each of those 20,000 breaths per day for city residents. Adding on to the city’s existing air quality and public health work (like the recent passage of a fugitive dust ordinance), the MiNextCities program recently launched a city-wide air quality monitoring network to provide city leaders and residents with the information they need to better protect the community from airborne pollutants.

While regulatory-grade monitors provide useful data on regional air quality, they fail to capture disparities across neighborhoods—or even from one end of a block to another. Our collaborative monitoring network was designed with this in mind. Sensors will be placed across the city to document neighborhood-level differences and allow residents to keep up to date on air quality readings closer to where they live, work, and play through a public dashboard and alert system.

Understanding and identifying these hyperlocal differences in air quality is critical for municipal enforcement and targeted public health responses. Although neighborhood-level monitors can’t be used for federal or state compliance, the data they collect can help residents be more proactive and protect themselves while also empowering the City of Dearborn to make municipal-level policy changes (like anti-idling ordinances) or allocate more resources to disproportionately impacted blocks. This network is important in advancing the city’s public health goals and establishing a clear baseline for future air quality mitigation efforts.

At a Glance

Flood/water level monitoring


  • Networked water level sensors
  • Data dashboard
  • Real-time flood mapping

Problem solved

Short-term: quicker response times, proactive flood mitigation

Long-term: longitudinal data can help target areas for future investments for flood prevention

Air quality monitoring


  • Networked neighborhood-level air quality and ozone monitors
  • Data dashboard
  • Customizable public notifications

Problems solved

  • Document disparities in air quality at the neighborhood level not currently captured by regional regulatory sensors
  • Provide real-time information to city and residents to better inform public health activities

What does program success look like in Dearborn?

Dearborn has a rich legacy of innovation rooted in its industrial past, a legacy that has drawn residents from every corner of the globe. MiNextCities has drawn on this legacy by modeling smart, culturally competent solutions for other mid-sized cities. What does it mean to use new age technologies to solve age old problems? And how can the environment be viewed as a form of technology, leveraging green infrastructure to remake Dearborn’s industrial footprint? These are just a few perspectives Dearborn is taking into the MiNextCities program as they build the smart, sustainable city its residents deserve for generations to come.

How will creating a smarter city in Dearborn affect the daily lives of its residents?

Being a smarter city means ensuring governance and built environment can foster better collaboration, connectivity and quality of life for residents in Dearborn. It means addressing air pollution so that outdoor spaces fuel imaginations rather than asthma rates. And it means adopting innovative solutions to mitigate flooding and manage stormwater so that a torrential rainfall does not spell disaster for thousands of Dearborn residents.

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