A wide range of issues can disrupt the normal functioning of an urban water system, such as storms and other natural disasters, pollution, physical damage, cyber incidents, aging and insufficient infrastructure, and rapid urban growth. In response, many utilities are looking more closely at advanced technologies to manage their water systems more effectively.
Technology and the ever-increasing capabilities of software solutions are enabling better-performing projects and assets, predicting issues and proposing solutions, and reducing operating costs for utilities around the world. The global water market — that is to say, the sum of both operating and capital expenditures by utilities and industrial water users of both water and wastewater — is currently estimated to be worth USD714 billion. It is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3.8 percent until 2020.
This massive enterprise takes place on the local level in every community in the world, and every local water utility requires thorough and careful management. Some of the greatest issues facing water utilities today include the need for: improved water efficiency in response to pressures on water supply; greater emphasis on wastewater treatment in growing cities; improved management of increased volumes of sludge; the restructuring of utilities’ management and finance; less uncertainty in private financing; a greater reliance on technology to drive performance; and networks remaining at the heart of utility operations.
The Urban Water Lifecycle
These trends impact every stage of the water lifecycle, especially in developing countries receiving their first modern urban water systems. Software can facilitate solutions to resulting issues occurring from the planning stages through construction and operations, using simulation, modeling, and analysis to bring conditions and obstacles to light. Not only does this allow urban water organizations to plan for potential scenarios before a shovel hits the ground, but it extends to daily operations, proactively addressing potential issues before they become problems. The following examines challenges and software solutions for the urban water lifecycle.
To have confidence in stormwater conveyance systems, urban water management must simulate and examine its performance under a range of conditions. These systems are hard to model, with flow backups and reversals, surcharged pipes, and more. Stormwater modeling and analysis solutions allow users to model and examine potential storm events, land uses and runoff characteristics, and other basin drainage conditions.
Different automated and manual designs can then be evaluated and compared for these different conditions, ensuring that the final system will perform well no matter the weather. Bentley’s CivilStorm stormwater modeling and analysis application played a key role in stormwater management in Dholera, an ancient port city in India. The development of Dholera marks a new stage of growth for India that will drive economic growth and generate jobs in the region.
The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation aims to enhance India’s manufacturing base by developing a 920 square-kilometer city that will employ state-of-the-art green infrastructure. Flat, low-lying terrain in Dholera makes storm networks a challenge, as stormwater management requires more than 30-meter wide concrete ducts to carry stormwater under roads. The use of stormwater modeling and analysis software saved the project USD45 million by designing an open channel in the center of the city that would collect, harvest, and allow reuse of stormwater, repurposing the area for irrigation and as a public park.
Urban expansion, modernization, and other issues have resulted in the development of new water and wastewater treatment facilities and the upgrading of existing ones. Water and wastewater treatment plant design is a large scale, complex engineering effort that requires a multi-discipline design team and involves collaboration among different consulting firms, contractors, and owners. Greenfield and brownfield projects require team collaboration in a comprehensive modeling and connected data environment.
Modeling of complex structures and multi-discipline plant design applications are required. For upgraded and retrofitted plants, project teams need to reuse legacy P&ID drawings, create intelligent P&IDs for managing tags in the facility, and use reality modeling with point clouds and photographs to capture existing plant conditions. Taking advantage of Bentley’s multi-discipline treatment plant design solution, MWH Global used an integrated design approach, harnessing resources from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Pune, India to simultaneously deliver drawings and models with managed version control.
The team used 3D modeling from concept through to detailed design to include earthwork, roads, structures, piping, and mechanical equipment. The 3D model helped minimize risk and construction costs by providing valuable information to the construction firm and enabled all stakeholders to identify and address operational, maintenance, construction, and design issues at the 3D model review stage – before beginning construction.
Water Distribution Networks
To deliver clean, potable water reliably to every customer, urban water management must understand how the water distribution network behaves, how to identify problems, and how to choose the best course of action to address the customers’ and the utilities’ needs. Aging infrastructure, population shifts, and climate change can change the way the system reacts to increased stresses.
Water distribution applications can help urban water organizations optimize designs, manage leaks, prioritize investments, manage energy consumption, maintain assets, enhance operational workflows, and provide predictive analytics for better decision making. Using decision-support capabilities such as hydraulic modeling and GIS can determine the location and routing of new transmission mains, pumping stations, and storage facilities, balancing service priorities against risks and costs.
Manila Water, of the Philippines, used data logging to develop accurate demand patterns for various customer profiles in Bentley’s WaterGEMS hydraulic model to address inefficient pump operation that led to low pressures during peak demands, but caused pipe breaks resulting from high pressure during off-peak periods. It then used that same model to define optimal pump operations, balancing peak power costs with the desired pressure conditions. They reduced power consumption by nearly 5 percent during off-peak hours, and more than 15 percent during peak, resulting in an annual cost savings of approximately USD367,000.
Wastewater Collection Networks
Population shifts can change the sources and volume of wastewater, requiring up-to-date analysis and renewed modeling based on new parameters. To stay ahead of these changes, urban water utilities must employ the most effective system planning techniques available.
Wastewater collection and treatment also face a wide variety of daily uncertainties, from climate change to aging infrastructure and the environmental, health, and economic risks they represent. One of the main challenges for water and wastewater service providers is keeping track of ever-changing asset conditions. Currently, many utilities exhaust time and money trying to connect information from different silos and software systems.
This makes asset management activities and capital investment planning difficult. Instead, asset management should be embedded in the day-to-day work of operations and maintenance departments. An asset lifecycle information management (ALIM) system provides a single point of entry to consolidate inventory, inspections, interventions, and incidents. Utilities can support many cross-discipline workflows for operations and maintenance, obtain reports on the biography of a single asset, or a category of assets defined by area, installation date or other definitions, and track the “as-maintained” state of the network. These types of applications offer a comprehensive asset condition management and analysis solution that incorporates a network model and a robust asset register, as well as a historical record of all operation and maintenance activities.
Water treatment solutions also apply to treating wastewater reentering the system. Once again, BIM and digital engineering models play an important role, critical for information flow from planning and engineering through plant construction and operations. The digital engineering model delivered from the capital project phase becomes the backbone of an information management strategy.
Being able to compare the ‘as-operated’ asset with the digital asset held in an information or asset management system enables operators to make better decisions when planning maintenance in operating assets and developing both strategic and tactical asset management plans. All aspects of the treatment plant assets and conditions are subject to varying degrees and rates of change. To implement maintenance strategies for predictive, preventive, or condition-based activities, wastewater engineers need visibility into comprehensive real-time engineering information at any moment.
Advancing Management of Urban Water Infrastructure
The water infrastructure lifecycle begins with the planning and design of the assets required to operate the urban water network. Capital expenditures (CAPEX) to build new infrastructure may be driven by data, collected and used in modeling to predict and understand the performance of each asset involved in water and wastewater networks and treatment plants.
Operational expenditures (OPEX) should also be data-driven to make informed decisions about the maintenance of urban water infrastructure. Asset performance software and strategies can be used to ensure dependable operations in all conditions and reduce the total monetary expenditures (TOTEX) across capital investment and operations.
In each phase of the water lifecycle, software plays a key role in facilitating decision making about new and existing infrastructure, determining the viability of legacy systems, and optimizing the construction of new networks and treatment plants. BIM, hydraulic modeling, GIS, asset management, and reality modeling all serve as critically important solutions in making certain that investment in urban water infrastructure is spent wisely and effectively, and that the systems will be in place for decades.
Senior Industry Marketing Director
Bentley Systems, Inc.