Guest Column | September 15, 2014

What's So "Smart" About Potable Smart Water Networks?

Oliver Grievson

By Oliver Grievson

Smart Networks— no matter if they are on the potable side of the industry or the wastewater side— seem to be one of the next battlegrounds for efficiency. A number of the UK water companies are looking at water holistically from source to tap and flush to source again. Looking at the whole system together is an interesting idea, especially since the individual parts are not working as efficiently as they should be at this current time.

So what exactly makes a system “smart?” Where is the intelligence in the distribution network? If we look at these case studies from around the world a lot has been done.

Case Study 1 – The Use Of Advanced Pressure Management

Some would argue that this system is “intelligent,” while other would argue that it is not.  Either way, it has been put into distribution networks around the world to great effect. In the UK, it was most recently utilized by I2O, who put loggers in key places within the network and gathered the data from the network. They identified where pressures are adequate, or where they may be too high or too low. This gives visualization of what is happening in the network.

The next steps are to convert the data gathered into information that can be used to make a decision. This is done by either a human intervention or by automating  the pressure within the distribution network via a range of control strategies including timer and modulating control.

By controlling flow and pressure, typical savings have been in the order of 20 percent.

Case Study 2 - Algorithmic Detection Of Non-Revenue Water Loss

The use of algorithms to detect the loss of water is the latest of the “SMART” water solutions for the potable water distribution network. There are several practioners including WONE from Portugal and TaKaDu from Israel. Both of the systems work in different ways using instrumentation in the network to gather data and use algorithms to detect the losses within the network.

The WONE system was implemented in Lisbon by EPAL. The WONE methodology is based on DMA Implementation Projects which are produced for each zone, with analysis of proposed boundaries, meter installations, existing network performance, client data, GIS plans and DMA design validation using EPANET modelling analysis. Network monitoring includes pressure and flow registered at 15 minute intervals at each monitoring point with data available daily via the telemetry system. Rigorous management and DMA documentation   procedures have been developed to ensure system continuity and integrity. WONE includes an innovative and practical software support tool, which automates the process of bringing together all relevant network monitoring data within a flexible, practical user-friendly interface. The WONE software application calculates a range of indicators to allow ranking of DMA performance, such as daily total and nightline consumption and tendency analysis.

Since 2006, EPAL implemented a project to reduce non-revenue water (NRW) within the company’s distribution network. The basis of the WONE project has been the progressive implementation of more than 150 District Metered Areas (DMA), along with associated flow and pressure monitoring equipment and telemetry systems. A program of investments has been made, involving the construction of monitoring points, meter and telemetry installation, whilst this project has been undertaken in parallel with a renewals and rehabilitation program. Through this process of network segmentation, increased monitoring and analysis, a far greater understanding of performance and systems dynamics has been obtained, which combined with Active Leakage Control interventions has seen NRW reduced by more than half from 23.5 percent in 2005 to 10 percent in 2011, within the Economic Level of Leakage (ELL). This level of leakage is now below 7 percent and is being held at this level.

But Is This All SMART?

The answer to all of this is provided by a case study that was published a few years ago by Yarra Valley Water after taking a 15 year journey to reduce non-revenue water loss. They started by installing DMA’s and monitoring the network properly. They journeyed through flow and pressure management, and as the case study above shows realized large savings in the potable water that they were using. This prompted them to move to algorithm-based water loss detection by TaKaDu.

What is clear is that where non-revenue water loss has been reduced it is due to a focus on detection of what water is going where within the system. To use the SWAN Forum layers it’s the first and second layers with the measurement of the physical asset. Once the data has been collected, utilities have to determine what to do with that data. This is where many of the water companies that have adopted I2O, EPAL or TaKaDu solutions have not necessarily benefited from the savings that could be realised within their potable water systems.

The power in the water industry that we will potentially see within the next 10-15 years (or possibly longer) will rely on the correct interpretation of the data that the water companies collect and the proper steps to convert this data into usable information. This is what companies have effectively done in the potable side of the water industry.

 Is this “SMART”? Well, it depends upon your interpretation. But it is definitely an intelligent way of operating.