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Meet the Minds: Mapistry App Aids Stormwater Management

Technology startup Mapistry is helping companies more easily comply with stormwater regulations, which is a bonus for business and the environment, say founders Allie and Ryan Janoch. We spoke to them as part of our “Meet the Minds” series.

Written by Eline Gordts Published on Read time Approx. 5 minutes
Equipped with umbrellas, pedestrians cross Powell Street and cable car tracks in San Francisco after a heavy dousing of autumn rain. Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

Most companies want to comply with environmental regulations, but it’s not always easy, says Allie Janoch. That’s why she and Ryan Janoch founded the mapping software and stormwater startup Mapistry.

Allie, a software engineer, has been coding since she was 15 and worked at IQ Engines and Yahoo before launching Mapistry. Ryan is a self-described stormwater geek. As a professional engineer, he previously worked for Terraphase Engineering, where he implemented an innovative treatment system for wastewater and managed an environmental engineering contract for the Doyle Drive Reconstruction Project in San Francisco.

At Mapistry, one of several new startups spearheading innovation in California’s water sector, the couple have merged their talents to build an app that helps industrial facilities understand and comply with local stormwater regulations as well as identify stormwater problems.

Their advice for the state? Invest in technology and work together with the private sector. “California needs to be working with private companies, big and small, to provide the inspiration and innovation needed to create a sustainable water future,” Allie Janoch said.

Water Deeply recently spoke with the Janochs for our “Meet the Minds” series.

Water Deeply: What are you working on that you want the world to know about?

Ryan Janoch: Mapistry makes it easier for industrial facilities, such as ready-mix concrete, mines, wineries and landfills, to comply with stormwater regulations through a web-based app. We are revolutionizing how the backbone of our economy protects water quality.

Allie Janoch: Environmental compliance is hard. Most companies mean well, their employees bike and fish and breathe the same air we all do. They don’t want to pollute, but often the best intentions are not enough. They try to wade through the piles of regulations, but it is complicated, and it isn’t as if preventing pollution is the only priority – these are businesses, after all.

For many companies, the tempting solution is to hire an expert, but that is expensive, and they’re not going to be on site most days, so mistakes still happen. Mapistry strikes a balance. We provide education to empower our customers and simplify regulations: We make our customers the experts. Our software guides customers through the necessary steps to stay in compliance, warning them when they might be heading for trouble. And we provide personal expertise – we’re there on the phone or in person when necessary to make sure our customers are protecting water resources, like they want to be doing.

Water Deeply: What surprised you in the past year about work in the water field?

Ryan: As a stormwater nut, I thought everyone knew at least what stormwater was and that it was not the same as wastewater. Wrong! I spend a lot of time explaining to executives at companies and even their environmental staff the difference between stormwater (largely untreated rainfall that flows across their parking lots and facilities before entering streams, lakes and rivers) and wastewater (water discarded from manufacturing or the toilet, which gets treated before entering the ground or water bodies).

Allie: In June 2015, a new industrial stormwater general permit went into effect. We thought that this would mean tens of thousands of companies would be regulated for the first time. But, what has become very clear is that publishing regulations is not enough, regulators need the budget to enforce those regulations or companies will just continue with business as usual. It will be years before all those companies that should be complying with new regulations are actually forced to comply. State and federal agencies need more affordable mechanisms for enforcement and more budget for enforcement. It is unfair to the companies that do comply that many of their competitors get to skate by due to a lack of an equal playing field.

Water Deeply: Who/what do you find most inspiring in your field?

Ryan: I am an environmentalist. I am also a strong believer in manufacturing and the businesses that make the core products we use, the roads we drive on, the food we eat, etc. I believe our constant outreach and education and software for stormwater compliance is making a difference to companies’ approach to stormwater, which ultimately results in cleaner water. There are many stakeholders in stormwater, from environmental groups to regulators to companies to the public. Some protect water via litigation, some by their cleanup efforts and some do nothing. I like to solve problems by getting my hands dirty and making stormwater regulations mean something to the companies that are impacting our stormwater.

Allie: While Ryan is an environmentalist, I’m a technologist. The thing that inspires me every day is the efficiencies that technology can provide and what that efficiency allows our customers to do. Our customers are builders, doers, they’re the folks that manufacture cement, mine the ingredients in our toothpaste and drive our buses. They’re my inspiration, empowering and enabling them to do their jobs, while protecting the environment is what inspires me.

Water Deeply: What’s the one most important thing California should be doing right now to create a sustainable water future?

Ryan: Invest in technology. Stormwater is largely untreated before it enters the groundwater and surface water. How we manage stormwater will have a huge impact on our water availability and quality now and in the future. To create a sustainable future we need to make software technology easier for companies to understand and comply with stormwater regulations, hardware to better monitor water quality and treatment technology to keep stormwater cleaner. Technology can help companies that might be inclined to minimize the value of stormwater to protect stormwater quality.

Allie: California needs to be working with private companies, big and small, to provide the inspiration and innovation needed to create a sustainable water future. Look at how far we have come with renewable energy in this state by partnering with private industry to bring solar panels to over half a million homes.

Water Deeply: Looking out 10 years from now, what do you hope California will have accomplished on water issues?

Ryan: For workers to brag about how their companies’ stormwater runoff is better than their competitors.

Allie: With regards to stormwater, I’d like to see regulations that are easier to follow, but that apply more broadly. Under current law, wineries are subject to stormwater regulations, but gas stations are not. I’d like to see inconsistencies like this eliminated.

More in our “Meet the Minds” Series:

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