Water Journal : Water Journal April 2012
smart systems technical features 88 APRIL 2012 water Reducing Energy Consumption In line with the carbon-constrained future, there is a need to address the relatively high energy consumption of water utilities as a result of pumping at various stages. With knowledge of the system pressures, flows and levels at any location and time, the utilities can optimise pump operation and manage demand in the same way that some of them currently do, utilising off-peak energy metering to conduct most of the high energy long distance pumping. The Digital World In future, when we will all interact with the virtual world to some degree, the availability of metrics from the type of information mentioned above, via digital means (either internet or mobile telephone), will not only give water utilities tools for certainty in timely decision making, but also empower house occupants to better manage their water usage, thus effecting behavioural change. In many respects this is no different from the way we think about our vehicles; we have monitors for engine temperature, for oil level, for battery energy level, to tell us how many kilometres the vehicle has travelled, if our seatbelt is on, that the lights are on, what speed we are travelling at, if the handbrake is on... one that activates antilock braking when it senses that the wheels are losing their grip on the road surface, and one that activates airbags in the event of a sudden loss in vehicle velocity. All of these monitors (or sensors) on our vehicles are now considered as the norm, and we utilise the information from them to make decisions to minimise risks of accidents, prolong our vehicles' lives, and ensure our comfort and standard of transport. This monitoring has resulted in a significant reduction in the rate of vehicular accidents and, most importantly, in the risk of injury (i.e. an increase in societal benefit). Flow- on economic benefits have resulted from reduced medical insurance costs, reduced injury recovery time, and a decrease in lost productivity time. The research conducted in this area will identify the relevant parameters within water networks for which real-time monitoring of waters and the associated infrastructure will bring societal, economic and environmental benefits. Further research will develop and identify the necessary network implementation tools or devices for sensor placement strategy, data collection, transfer, storage and presentation. To take advantage of the developments foreshadowed above, water utilities will need to make a major shift from the way their business is currently done in order to integrate their existing systems with different modern 'plug & play' digital technologies. In addition, their information communication technology (ICT) systems will need modernisation in order to be able to analyse very large data sets in real time. The regulator that facilitates budgets and operating guidelines/rules for these organisations will need to develop a set of policies and guidelines for the inter-operability of technologies as well as the digital management of the water distribution and collection networks in our society. Information Needs in Order to Transition from our Current Status Prior to transitioning from the current status, the business case for proceeding needs to be made in order to ensure the path taken meets the service, operational and budgetary requirements of existing water utility businesses. Importantly, there is a need to ensure that technological advances can be utilised to save money by: (i) extending asset life, (ii) reducing routine monitoring, (iii) facilitating targeted actions/maintenance and (iv) facilitating lower cost and improved service. The templating or impressing of this business requirement on the transition will ensure a consistent and systematic approach for long--term change. The nature of sub- tasks required for this transition includes: • A comprehensive economic analysis, which will require a survey of the current systems' control points and identification of parameters for monitoring; • Identification of the relevant governmental stakeholders, which, at the state level, will be treasury, sustainability and environment, human services and the essential services commission; and, at the federal level, Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government; • Estimation (or evaluation) of the costs (or price) of diminished service and environmental effects due to reduced water quality, infrastructure deterioration and failure, illegal discharges into the storm or sewer networks, discharge of poor quality water into the environment, etc; • Estimation (or evaluation) of the cost (or price) savings that can be made as a result of optimised leak management, reduced bursts and failures, optimised pumping, and asset repair and replacement programs; • Assessing the performance of current systems in terms of service delivery and then setting new standards which will be possible in the new information- driven virtual world; • Identifying relevant stakeholder sensitivity to the pricing of drinking water supply, wastewater treatment and/or removal, and prevention of environmental contamination events. • Identifying the retraining or new workforce requirements and associated transitional costs. Infrastructure Monitoring Since direct measurements on or in buried pipes are often impossible, this research should consider some sort of inferential methodology (or proxy parameter) to be used in conjunction with any direct measurements that are possible, to monitor and evaluate the condition of the infrastructure. These proxies will need to be validated initially via a series of statistically designed laboratory trials, followed by field trials that will confirm their efficacy in the real world. It is likely that these proxies will include chemical, physical and microbiological measurements, with a "fingerprint" of the combination of all of them being associated with a specific type of material degradation. The exact nature of the relationships found will be characterised by a pattern of some sort; this pattern (and its recognition) will be part of the intelligent system (IS). Upon recognition of a pattern, the IS can raise an alert, spatially and temporally analyse the trend of the pattern, and associate it with known events, in order to eliminate false positives or erroneous monitor readings. Upon confirming a positive alert, it can also initiate an action plan to commence management of the situation. Another aspect of infrastructure monitoring will be the use of in-pipe data collection systems; these could be autonomous vehicles that roam the pipe network, or fixed cables that are permanently located within the pipe network. These will collect data in the form of visual images or precise internal pipe measurements, analogous to previous pipe inspection systems. With some intelligence and networking technology, these systems can provide, to the pipe owners or water utilities, information on the internal condition of the pipe and, because of its inbuilt intelligence, can allow a fully automated process, eliminating the current error- prone and relatively expensive human- driven systems.
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