Inaugural Environmental Tech Lab Proof of Concept Results

April 10, 2024

“New York City’s water system is rightly renowned as a global leader, and we’re excited to work with DEP and this impressive group of technologists to ensure it leads the way in sustainable practices and innovation. It is inspiring to see companies from all over the world coming to New York to help build a sustainable future for the city’s most critical infrastructure.”

Maria Gotsch
President and CEO
Partnership Fund for New York City

In this article

In this article


A collaboration between the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Partnership Fund for New York City, the Environmental Tech Lab (ETL) is bringing innovative solutions to managing and maintaining the largest water and wastewater network in the US. Launched in May 2023, the ETL is the latest collaboration in the Partnership Fund’s broader effort to catalyze technology in the public interest.  

Spanning 2,000 square miles, the New York City water supply system delivers one billion gallons of drinking water to 8.5 million residents daily. But as climate change and aging infrastructure present new challenges to water quality and resiliency, the ETL is helping DEP source innovative solutions that reimagine how the utility delivers service, maintains infrastructure and manages operations. 

In June 2023, the ETL challenged growth-stage startups worldwide to demonstrate how they could improve operational efficiency and data utilization in DEP.

The program received nearly 100 applications from over twenty countries. Thirty-eight DEP subject matter experts and executives evaluated each company, resulting in 20 semifinalists, with eight moving on to participate in a proof of concept that began in October 2023.

The eight finalists have worked closely with their bureau partners at DEP to test and implement solutions that can solve critical pain points. This report details each company’s solution, how it was used, and its potential for future impact—bringing new tech to the public sector while improving critical infrastructure to ensure New Yorkers continue enjoying safe drinking water and a clean environment.

The ETL is funded by the New York City Partnership Foundation, the nonprofit affiliate of Partnership Fund for New York City, led by Maria Gotsch, President and CEO.

Operational Efficiency Challenge

Challenge Highlights and Outcomes

  • Monitored water quality at scale (1,500 square miles) using optical analysis of satellite maps

  • Solutions eliminated the need for manual route field visits, freeing up hours of staff time, by providing real-time operational data of critical infrastructure

  • Augmented expensive, carbon-intensive helicopter watershed surveys with a zero-emission robot to aid police in monitoring watershed easements

  • AI-powered sewer pipe monitoring unlocked 15-30 hours of engineering time/week, reduced defect detection time by 75%, and provided repair decisions 68% faster than current methods. 

“The Environmental Tech Lab program is wonderful. From the pitch day to the final presentations, I enjoyed learning about the ground breaking work and services from these companies and working with the ETL team for the betterment of New York City.”

Deputy Director
Bureau of Engineering Design and Construction
NYC Department of Environmental Protection

“The Environmental Tech Lab program is wonderful. From the pitch day to the final presentations, I enjoyed learning about the ground breaking work and services from these companies and working with the ETL team for the betterment of New York City.”

Deputy Director
Bureau of Engineering Design and Construction
NYC Department of Environmental Protection


Portland, OR, United States

Agency Bureau: Water Supply

Gybe automatically monitors a variety of water quality parameters across entire watersheds, lakes, rivers and coastal areas, using data from satellites and non-contact hyperspectral sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Through optical analysis, Gybe provided automated, data-rich maps highlighting critical water quality risk factors like turbidity, algal blooms, and invasive species hotspots across 1,500 square miles of DEP water reservoirs. In the future, Gybe’s predictive analysis could help DEP more effectively allocate manual sampling resources and more rapidly respond to water quality threats.

“Gybe would provide additional insight into our source water quality monitoring and assessment programs. This additional utility stems from the unique ability of satellite water quality imagery to provide a system-wide view of water quality for important parameters such as turbidity, chlorophyll-a and phycocyanin (algal blooms), and aquatic invasive species.”

Section Chief
Technology and Innovation


New York, NY, United States

Agency Bureau: Water Supply

Knaq uses non-invasive hardware installed on industrial equipment coupled with a software platform to provide real time data, alerting, and predictive maintenance recommendations.

Knaq installed 15 devices and provided real-time alerting on critical industrial equipment including pumps, generators, boilers, and blowers. Knaq’s real-time dashboard eliminates the need for routine field visits, freeing up hours of DEP technician time.

“We are finding the Knaq equipment has been an important tool in our day-to-day monitoring activities. The ability to view the dashboard on any cell phone, allows us to access equipment data anywhere and anytime.”

Stationary Engineer

Near Space Labs

Brooklyn, NY, United States

Agency Bureaus: Sustainability, Police & Security

Near Space Labs flies proprietary zero-emission robots to the stratosphere to capture, process, and deliver high-quality earth imagery to augment infrastructure resiliency initiatives.

Near Space Labs captured 15 miles of high-definition aerial imagery of the Cannonsville Reservoir for possible watershed easement infractions, a process that can potentially replace 14 hours of manned helicopter watershed surveys annually for the police. The company also scoped three use cases to improve rain garden maintenance, with the potential to reduce flooding damage after major storm events and save $1.9 million in repair costs through preventative surveys.

“The imagery Near Space Labs provides has the level of detail needed for a multitude of situations including off-site inspections, site reviews, historical comparison, construction tracking, sector evaluations, etc. In my opinion, this technology will benefit multiple bureaus within DEP.”

Police Captain
Special Operations Division


Charlottetown, Canada

Agency Bureau: Wastewater Treatment

SENTRY utilizes a bio-electrode sensor platform to provide real-time, reliable wastewater quality data. These sensors accurately monitor the strength of incoming wastewater and allow operations to save costs by reducing energy and chemical use.

SENTRY met with DEP’s Bureau of Wastewater Treatment to determine if its technology could reduce supplemental carbon dosing by monitoring wastewater nitrate/nitrite levels in real time. The company identified $500,000-$1,500,000 in potential annual savings by optimizing supplemental carbon dosing across the City. 

"We were excited with how SENTRY could present itself as a promising method of evaluating carbon needs in real time. This would allow us to optimize supplemental carbon dosing in order to reduce nitrate/nitrite levels while saving money and remaining in compliance with regulatory limits."

Section Chief
Process Support and Compliance


Walnut Creek, CA, United States

Agency Bureau: Wastewater Treatment, Water & Sewer Operations

SewerAI streamlines workflows using artificial intelligence (AI) to review CCTV videos of pipes, modeling manholes with 3D technology and automating data quality control (QC).

SewerAI applied its AI software to 6.5 hours of sewer inspection videos and three manhole inspection images to automate defect coding. The company reduced defect detection time by over 75% without sacrificing accuracy.

“SewerAI services provided a user-friendly interface that has the potential to greatly decrease DEP’s processing time of CCTV inspections while increasing the quality of videos and sewer pipe ratings. This technology unlocked 15 to 30 hours per week of engineering time that could be redirected towards developing rehabilitation projects.”

Section Chief
Collection Engineering 


Sydney, Australia

Agency Bureau: Water and Sewer Operations

VAPAR uses deep learning to find defects in sewer pipe inspection videos and standardize follow-on repair decisions.

VAPAR’s AI tool analyzed 20,000 ft of CCTV sewer pipe footage and provided 162 automated repair suggestions to help DEP prioritize repair schedules. The company was able to make repair recommendations 68% faster than current methods.

“The product was very easy to use, accurate in reporting pipe defects, and effective in repair recommendations.”

Collection Systems Investigation

Data Challenge

Challenge Highlights and Outcomes

  • Demonstrated potential of unlocking a renewable energy source from DEP water pipes which could generate enough power to charge 1,200 electric vehicles annually

  • Simulated preliminary construction designs demonstrating how design scenario planning software can save time and increase confidence in agency capital planning.

“A great experience for the project managers and DEP to continue to test and evaluate new technology/equipment that may benefit productivity in the future.”

Associate Project Manager
Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations

InPipe Energy

San Francisco, CA, United States

Agency Bureau: Office of Energy, Water Supply

InPipe Energy uses micro-hydropower to create reliable, renewable energy from water pipelines via HydroXS, a first-of-its-kind product line.

InPipe Energy evaluated six DEP Bureau of Water Supply sites and developed the initial design elements for the HydroXS at a water release pipe at the East Branch Dam’s Sodom Release Facility. The company estimates that with the help of state and Federal incentives, the energy cost savings generated from the technology could offset the installation cost within three years. Over its projected thirty-year life, the technology would save 8,200 tons of carbon, and generate 157 million kWH of power, the equivalent of over 1,200 electric vehicles each year.

“InPipe Energy has a great team and product. The ETL proof-of-concept process demonstrated that InPipe Energy’s HydroXS or other micro turbines can be a good fit for certain water system locations.”

Strategic Planning

Transcend Software Inc.

Princeton, NJ, United States

Agency Bureau: Engineering Design & Construction

Transcend Software Inc. integrates process, mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering calculations and decisions in a cloud-based generative design software to automatically generate complete and accurate preliminary engineering designs for critical infrastructure. 

Transcend modeled the initial 30% of design requirements for five wastewater treatment construction projects using dummy data derived from real projects in Westchester County and Kings County for three DEP bureaus to review. Transcend demonstrated how its technology can simulate digital twins of various design alternatives, reducing preliminary design time and increasing confidence in how capital projects are designed and delivered.

“The ETL process with Transcend was important to determine the applicability of the platform for DEP across services and use cases. The technology has the potential to dramatically change how public utilities and engineering companies select and deliver infrastructure projects in a cost-effective way, minimizing the time-design without sacrificing quality.”

Deputy Director
Engineering Services Division

Company Testimonials

“The ETL has been an invaluable partner in helping Gybe deliver a successful product demonstration for the Bureau of Water Supply, connecting us with NYC DEP leadership, and navigating the department’s operations, legal, and IT organizations.” 

Ivan Lalovic
CEO, Gybe

“The ETL program streamlined the process of getting in touch with interested stakeholders at DEP and pre-screened the technology to match the needs of DEP to create the most engaging and fruitful projects. We found the ETL program to be extremely well structured and organized and would highly recommend it to any technology company looking to test its technology with one of the leading wastewater agencies
in the world.”

Tim McGarry
Business Development Manager, SewerAI

“ETL has given Near Space Labs a fantastic opportunity to engage with stakeholders across DEP who have unique challenges to solve. ETL has been instrumental in driving an efficient process that is focused on real world outcomes such as effective stormwater management and pollution control."

Matthew Tucker
Vice President of Sales, Near Space Labs

“The Lab provided businesses with an exceptional opportunity to work and learn directly with DEP staff, which is invaluable from a product perspective. Companies quickly piloted new technology without a lengthy initial procurement, thus enabling value to be delivered and evaluated in a structured environment built to progress rapid decision-making. We would highly recommend the model to other public entities and innovation groups looking to replicate its success." 

Brian Carey
CEO, Knaq