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Cheng Wang, Benjamin Bowes, Arash Tavakoli, Stephen Adams, Jonathan Goodall, & Peter Beling. (2020). Smart Stormwater Control Systems: A Reinforcement Learning Approach. In Amanda Hughes, Fiona McNeill, & Christopher W. Zobel (Eds.), ISCRAM 2020 Conference Proceedings – 17th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (pp. 2–13). Blacksburg, VA (USA): Virginia Tech.
Abstract: Flooding poses a significant and growing risk for many urban areas. Stormwater systems are typically used to control flooding, but are traditionally passive (i.e. have no controllable components). However, if stormwater systems are retrofitted with valves and pumps, policies for controlling them in real-time could be implemented to enhance system performance over a wider range of conditions than originally designed for. In this paper, we propose an autonomous, reinforcement learning (RL) based, stormwater control system that aims to minimize flooding during storms. With this approach, an optimal control policy can be learned by letting an RL agent interact with the system in response to received reward signals. In comparison with a set of static control rules, RL shows superior performance on a wide range of artificial storm events. This demonstrates RL's ability to learn control actions based on observation and interaction, a key benefit for dynamic and ever-changing urban areas.