News | September 26, 2019

'Massive Savings' Earn SAWS Recognition As Insightful Utility And Among Top 10 Utility Papers Presented At WEFTEC19*

Facing EPA Consent Decrees Is Easier with Smart City Technology, Saving America’s Sewer Infrastructure Millions

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) was facing an EPA Consent Decree with an estimated cost of $1B. SAWS adopted the EPA’s Capacity, Management, Operations and Maintenance (CMOM) guidelines. An important part of their CMOM program was the institution of high frequency cleaning (HFC) for their 110,000 manholes and pipeline segments. Effectively this meant SAWS established a program of cleaning “high risk” pipes with potential for overflows, and instituted routine cleanings at monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual frequencies. As conscientious sewer operators, SAWS identified 200 high risk sites for regularly monthly cleanings — whether these pipes needed cleaning or not.


SAWS was anticipating over 2,400 annual monthly cleanings to prevent SSOs. After extensive review, SAWS deployed SmartCover at the HFC sites to gain cleaning insight to clean “as needed” rather than cleaning “just-in-case.”

Since deploying SmartCover, 65 cleanings have been identified and performed at locations where previously nearly 1,300 cleanings were scheduled. SAWS has experienced a 95% reduction in cleaning and ZERO SSO incidence with 216 SSO “saves” — an estimated $1M in savings.

San Antonio Water System Uses SmartCover Technology = Over $1M Saved by SSO “Saves”

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The results have not only lowered cleaning costs while preventing SSOs, SAWS has deployed a smart infrastructure solution that has fast payoff and excellent ROI, solves old problems with new technology, extends underground asset lifetime, eases stress on staff, creates staff availability for other tasks, lowers pressure on user rates, and significantly decreases operational liabilities.

It took some time to earn the trust of the cleaning crews and staff but over time, SmartCover allowed SAWS to literally see the difference. There was a distinctive transition from the beginning when the policy was "we always clean this spot just in case" to a reliance on SmartCover technology.

For example, there was one location issuing alarms multiple times a day. The combo operators couldn’t believe a 115 inch deep manhole could surcharge and recede in such a short amount of time. Every time the unit would issue an alarm, a combo operator would check the manhole only to find the level had lowered back down to a normal flow. SmartCover dispatched a customer support field technician to monitor on site during a surcharge to document the measured rise and fall of levels. After analyzing the SmartCover data, a pattern analysis indicated there was blockage downstream. A cleaning crew televised the line and found a severe obstruction from debris and grease accumulation three manholes down from the location with the surcharge activity. Through a site inspection it was determined that this line serves dozens of homes in the neighborhood and SAWS was able to prevent any spill contamination of this nearby community.

SAWS effectively transitioned from a routine, calendar-based cleaning system, to a data-driven cleaning program to properly respond to the current actual operating condition of the collection system. The fact that SAWS is embracing smart technology, trusting the data, and benefiting from an optimized cleaning schedule has led to significant positive benefits for the operator, the environment, and the communities served by SAWS. Not only is SmartCover effectively reducing wear and tear on pipelines from the routine cleaning, it’s also allowing SAWS to refocuses resources — time, labor, and money — on other activities.

Wastewater operators are notoriously prudent about routinely cleaning their systems but that’s because HFC was the only defense available to prevent SSOs. Today, where SmartCover technology is deployed, operators are relying on data to decide when and where to clean — savings millions in labor, equipment, and logistics.

About SmartCover
SmartCover technology monitors sewer pipes and transmits real time data analysis via military grade satellite communications to alert sewer operators exactly where and when to clean. Cities across the country are cleaning the right pipes at the right time to successfully prevent sewer spills — saving millions of dollars in maintenance while simultaneously protecting waterways and public health. For more information, visit


Source: SmartCover