Part II: So, what technology can make the difference?
Part I discussed the difficult challenges facing the water industry. Now, let’s examine some of the technologies that can help water systems meet these difficult challenges.
There are a number of operational technology tools available to address the main issues confronting the industry. Gaining the best deployment of limited capital and reducing operating and maintenance expenses requires access to historical data and predictive analysis of that data.
AMI technology provides the primary benefit of reducing costs via labor savings. It also provides significant additional benefits in reducing estimates, reducing customer calls, improving customer access to usage data, allowing for proactive conservation use and rates, forecasting peak water demand, and optimizing pumping / power costs.
AMI enabled technologies can leverage the network to provide numerous other optimization benefits such as pressure monitoring, leak detection on both customer services and in the distribution system, water quality and temperature monitoring. For example, operating an old distribution system at the lowest pressure possible will extend it for more years, delaying the capital investment for even more critical areas of the distribution system.
EAM technology is foundational to an asset replacement strategy. An inventory of assets, main break history, material type, and soil type are needed to developing a rigorous replacement program. Proper prioritization for replacement of buried assets is essential when faced with capital needs well in excess of your limited funds.
EAM systems are also needed to reduce maintenance costs through facilitating repair / replace analysis, creating optimal proactive maintenance programs, and maintenance parts and procedures libraries.
There are a number of other technologies that working alone or in conjunction with each other are important to improving service and reducing costs. GIS systems interconnected or interfaced to an EAM application creates a powerful mapping and asset management tool that enables large field resource effectiveness. Combining GIS, SCADA, and hydraulic modeling is effective for use in both real time and as a design tool. This system allows for outage management, real time reaction to failures, predictive modeling of demand, power optimization, asset planning, and proactive customer notifications.
A key to maximizing this benefit is to assure that there is a close relationship between the classic IT systems and these new technologies that currently often fall in an Operational Technology (OT) group and are managed by the various end users. Linking IT and OT is essential to gaining the ultimate benefits of these technologies. A very typical example is an AMI system being managed by the customer service operations area while the Customer information system that is so closely linked being managed by an IT group.