By Phill Tuxford
‘Resilience’ — in terms of delivering resilient water and wastewater services focused on preventing floods and pollution — is one of the key words when it comes to preparing for AMP7. As an industry, we can do this by implementing monitoring systems that provide robust and accurate data that then enables the water company to effectively manage and measure the health of their network and its assets.
Data to support resilience and measure asset health has become increasingly important over the last few years. As we head towards AMP7, there is a clear focus on asset performance indicators and Measures of Success, both of which can have a significant impact on the financial and operational performance of a water company.
Water companies are certainly taking their obligations on asset health and, by consequence the resilience of those assets, very seriously and realize that each asset requires continued scrutiny. There are external challenges to take into account such as climate change and asset degradation as well as the ever-present pressure of achieving regulatory compliance; it’s a moveable feast that requires constant adaptation and analysis.
Understanding what is meant by asset health is key to achieving resilience. It should be viewed as a number of different elements including a measure of the condition of the asset and its performance as well as the measure of it being fit for purpose. And all elements add up to a picture of how resilient each individual asset is.
Resilience is nothing new. The Water Act 2014 included a duty for Ofwat to “further the resilience objective and asset health” by making it a strategic aspect of the sector’s ability to provide reliable and resilient water and wastewater services to current and potential customers. And asset health was highlighted in Ofwat’s consultation on the outcomes framework for PR19 that offered draft expectations on how water companies should address asset health and improve reporting requirements.
Water and Sewerage Companies (WASC) are currently preparing for PR19 and the challenging metrics in AMP7. It’s key that, as an industry, we remain focused on supporting these companies and creating new products and tools to facilitate resilience and further improve asset health.
For example, every water company will be required to monitor the constituent of wastewater being received at any of its water treatment works. Monitoring tools are now available featuring a multi-analyzer with an integral flow channel, allowing the calculation of daily loads as well as instantaneous loading at the works. Correlating this flow and load data with other data from a series of smart sensors located within the network, it is possible to develop a series of metrics that can be used to identify performance upstream in the catchment.
All data is then channeled through a data center where skilled analysts work through the different data sets to correlate and develop the models needed to generate the correct metrics.
We’re also seeing an increase in the implementation of automated predictive analytics to reduce pollution and prevent flooding. Providing real-time detection and alarm notification, there are products now available that will enable even more efficient management of wastewater networks and avert environmental damages, costly clean-ups, fines, regulatory penalties, and negative publicity.
These products essentially function like alarm clocks. Values are input into the product, prior to installation, that define specific high and low set points. When a value goes outside that predefined “normal range”, the alarm becomes active. A SCADA System has the capacity to generate thousands of alarms that could potentially become active but not all of them will be valid. The more alarms a water company has to deal with, the more there is a risk of multiple alarms becoming active at any one time. Equally, there is additional exposure to the possibility of false or unnecessary alarms being triggered. The consequences? An overwhelmed operator dismisses them all as a group and the alarm system becomes a distraction rather than a useful resource!
Using predictive analysis techniques allows WASCs to turn raw data into insights and build an advanced automated alarm system. Using algorithms capable of cross-referencing suites of data accumulated from billions of data points from sewer networks, catchments, and live feeds, predictive analysis products provide the ability to prioritize severe disturbances from small disturbances, resulting in greater confidence in the system when alarms are forwarded.
Many water companies have been active in trialing and testing new technology aimed at measuring and managing asset health but Ofwat’s ‘Targeted Review of Asset Health and Resilience in the Water Industry’ September 2017 concluded that adoption of these technologies is still limited.
We at Detectronic support Ofwat in their belief that more can be done in this area and we would encourage every water and sewerage company to explore the wide variety of tools and products that are available to and how they could benefit their business. This includes measuring compliance with Pass forward flow (PFF) to wastewater treatment works in accordance with U_MON3 and U_MON4 of the Environment Agency PR19 driver. Information collated would also support catchment management delivery and resilience into AMP7.
Phill Tuxford is the technical support manager for Detectronic. Tuxford has a BSc in Physics, a BA in Human Geography, and an MSc in Science Communication.
Image credit: "Flooded River Severn, Worcester, UK. November 2012," muffinn © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/