The public works department in Jacksonville, Florida, is planning to use a Toronto-based artificial intelligence (AI) company focused on vector maps to more accurately assess impervious space for residential stormwater utility fees in the coastal community.
The mapping by Ecopia AI will be used in Duval County for 363,272 parcels of private property. It is a move that follows an audit that determined the manual approach to quantifying fees resulted in “sluggish and inconsistent application,” according to the city auditor’s office.
“Ecopia was the most complete, accurate, and up-to-date source of land cover data we found for Duval County, not to mention a fraction of the cost of other datasets,” announced Steve Long, director of public works for the City of Jacksonville, in a statement. “With this data informing our stormwater mapping workflows, the City of Jacksonville will ensure stormwater utility fee billing is as accurate and efficiently calculated as possible for 2023 and beyond,” added Long.
The AI will analyze aerial photos with GIS professional-level detail and map the buildings, trees, sidewalks, swimming pools, driveways and other surfaces in the community to determine how much land is covered by structures or pavement.
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The AI algorithm considers each image pixel by pixel — approximately 24 trillion of them — and can distinguish between more than 20 types of land cover.
The stormwater utility fee means that small impervious areas will cost taxpayers $30 per year, average areas of up to 4,650 square feet will run $60, and larger areas will cost $90 — with separate prices for condos, apartments and mobile homes.
City officials noted that Ecopia’s services are 84% cheaper than the closest competitor.
“It’s great to see the City of Jacksonville’s cutting-edge innovations in stormwater mapping, and Ecopia is proud to support them as they optimize stormwater utility fee billing and climate resilience for their community,” said Brandon Palin, senior director of public sector and international development at Ecopia.
In 2022, Ecopia was selected by the Bureau of Street Services in the City of Los Angeles to support its climate-resilience initiatives, including the optimization of stormwater medians throughout the city. Ecopia produced a map that now helps stormwater managers identify optimal locations for runoff outlets and vegetation in street medians.
Also in 2022, the City of Peterborough, Ontario, utilized Ecopia’s AI mapping technology to effectively model potential flooding scenarios. The digital terrain model of cells containing buildings is artificially raised to signify how water will move around those structures in a flood event and into other cells.