AI in Flood Engineering: Hype, Heuristic, or Hot Mess?

John N. Paine, PE, PH, CFM, Engineer, GKY & Associates, Inc.

The arrival of Artificial Intelligence for the masses in late 2022 opened a world of previously unimagined possibilities for anyone engaged in technical work. With a little perseverance and some natural language and logic skills, engineers now have problem-solving superpowers.

Clearly, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Some have been quick to adapt, others not so much. Anyone who has spent even a little time working with chatbots knows how incredibly powerful and obtuse the results can be. We all look for shortcuts. The ability to produce something useful and truly impressive with no appreciable effort is mind-boggling. Anyone can look like an expert. That’s a good thing, right?

Some worry about the long-term effects of having the machines do the thinking—with good reason. Others are just happy to get great results without breaking a sweat. Huge conferences have been held where everyone got excited, only to walk away wondering, “Where’s the beef?”

This presentation will highlight examples of using chatbots—successfully and otherwise—in flood engineering and engineering management applications. The types of problems touched upon include: 1) creating a smart checking program to review Storm Water Management Model ‘SWMM’ results, 2) performing advanced analytics on drainage asset condition data, 3) creating a data extraction tool to process modeling data from different platforms, 4) retrieving current financial data from a legacy accounting system and presenting it in a dashboard format, 5) optimizing EPA SWMM source code to run faster, and 6) a model version control manager.

Author Bio

John Paine, PE, PH, CFM has extensive experience in hydrology, hydraulics, and floodplain modeling. He has been active in teaching and publishing and has 39 years of progressive experience as a private-sector consultant, working for federal, state, and local government clients. He has multiple registrations as a Professional Engineer, Hydrologist, and Certified Floodplain Manager. Mr. Paine manages GKY’s Hampton Roads office.