“In Collection Systems I detected two clear interrelated trends during 2003”, explains Andrew Walker, Wallingford Software’s Sales Manager for Urban Drainage Software. “The first is technical – the greatly increased availability of affordable Digital Terrain Mapping data, or DTM. The second relates to the application of modeling – there is much more interest now in looking at what happens outside the collection system, examining the interaction with other physical structures.
“First, DTM data. When we included all the new DTM handling facilities in InfoWorks we knew it would be useful, but I don’t think we foresaw its full impact, and just how helpful it is to have much more accurate visual images, rather than just schematics and numbers. When modeling results are overlaid on a DTM, it is far easier to see the implications of those results, especially when the model is taken beyond the modeling team to wider use in the organization. I advise all users to explore the use of DTM data in their models.
“The second trend is that many more utilities are modeling what happens to water outside the sewer system, covering both stormwater on its way to the sewer, and stormwater, sometimes contaminated with foul water, surcharging from sewers. Clearly this is an important area because most problems occur when the water is outside the sewer, not when it is in it. For example, our software enables utilities to map what happens above ground outside the sewer when a surcharge occurs, aided by the ease of imposing a DTM on the network model. With terrain data, it is easy to see that the water does not necessarily stay close to the point of flooding, and later re-enter the system at that same point once the underground surcharging has subsided. There may be a gradient that causes the water to flow overground, re-entering the system some way away. Mixed storm and foul water may form a pool around the point of exit, leaving solids behind over a wide area when the water re-enters the system. Such analysis is key when large volumes of stormwater are present, or there is foul water involved, and it is incidents such as these that are the biggest headache for collection system engineers.
“There are of course many further developments happening across the world of sewer modeling and this will continue. It is a fast growing application area, and we find our clients make ever greater use of the models they have built. I’m sure that 2004 will bring further advances in technology and application that will match or outstrip the progress of 2003.”
Tom Merrifield, Senior Support Engineer for Water Supply at Wallingford Software believes that the key Water Supply trend over the past year is the broader usage of models within a water company, now extending way beyond the modeling team and into the support of operational decisions. “Operational staff are now approaching their modeling team and asking for help on specific issues”, he says. “The underlying reason for this in my view is the increased trust in models. Many of our clients now have several years’ experience of using their models, and these have produced good results time and again that engineers can understand and use as the basis of important investment decisions. With this trust secured, there is now a willingness to use the models beyond their original purpose.
“For example, operational staff are using models to look at the performance of pumps. InfoWorks shows, for each time interval, where each pump is operating on its performance curve throughout the simulation run. Operations engineers can review these results to see how the pump is performing in relation to its optimal range on the curve. The model can then be used to determine whether changes to pump settings or flow routes can improve the way pumps are utilized. In addition the facility to model electricity tariffs specifically to each pump station is used to evaluate any improvements in pump use.
“That example, and there are many others, could be termed off-line operational decision support – namely, giving decision support but not in real time. In addition to this, InfoWorks WS is also being used for more rapid decision support. For example one of our customers is using a model to simulate the effects of control room changes. Demand scenarios and telemetry data are input to the model, computed decisions evaluated, and control room settings changed, all within an operational timescale. Use at this level for decision support clearly shows a high level of confidence in the model.
“In addition to trust being a factor in the use of models in operational issues, our software calculates much more information that is of operational use than do models aimed solely at investment planning. Every new release brings out better ways of treating an issue, or deals with it in more detail, with fewer assumptions. Such detail is extremely useful for operational control, whereas many of the strategic issues such as pipe sizing are not. I foresee the trend to greater operational use continuing, and even accelerating as our new releases put new detail into the understanding of network performance that is the fundamental purpose of modeling”.
In the sphere of River Systems, Tyrone Parkinson, Sales Manager for River Modeling at Wallingford Software has detected three developments over the last twelve months resulting, he believes, from the increasing maturity of river systems modeling. “There is no doubt that modeling is now a mainstream activity for many river and coastal authorities”, he says, “and that the way models are used now could not have happened a few years back when modeling of rivers was relatively new to many authorities across the world.
“The first of these trends is the building of integrated models, by which I mean models that cover a range of factors, including for example low flows, flooding, water quality, and sediment transport. In the past each of these has been the subject of its own model. If you wanted to examine sediment transport for example, you built a model that explored only sediment transport. Now with the accuracy of our underlying modeling increasing, our package becoming more comprehensive, and computer power permitting bigger models, a single integrated model can produce sound results across a number of river issues.
“In parallel with this trend is the way general purpose models are now being maintained and updated to provide a tool that is available at all times for a wide range of analyses of the river. The days of building a new model to answer a new question are numbered. Having an existing, proven model is clearly a very efficient solution, allowing much more time for analysis that would otherwise have been devoted to model building. But the downside is that maintaining a model of this type imposes new disciplines on modelers, the traditional disciplines of the data processing world that are not always the forte of the mathematical modeler! We’ve seen this need for some time across InfoWorks, so we offer a package that is as strong in its data processing function, such as version control of models and data, and audit trails, as it is in its fluid flow equations.
“One more trend, which I think mirrors that of other modules in the InfoWorks suite, is the increasing use of our models for operational forecasting. River authorities realize that a good general purpose model can answer key questions for a number of different departments, including operational departments when they look at issues such as potential flooding, or water quality forecasts. The cost/benefit balance on which the decision to buy was based changes significantly as more departments gain benefits from the model, at minimal marginal cost.”
Network Information Systems
Finally, David Fortune, Director of Product Management at Wallingford Software reflects on the early days of InfoNet, the company’s new Network Information System.
“With InfoNet just about one year old I think it is early to talk about trends. But we’ve had a very successful year, with InfoNet progressing in that time from a totally new concept - a network information system purpose built for hydraulic and conveyance networks – to a proven product that is now being used in earnest by our customers. Based on that experience to date, I’d like to highlight some interesting facts that are coming to light.
“The first relates to Survey Data. We knew it was quite an expensive exercise to gather the data, but we did not know that the data is often not used to its full extent. Much survey data is used once, and then it gets buried or lost. This is partly because there has been no obvious place to store it, especially where there are several surveys of the same pipes or other assets. Clearly that is exactly what InfoNet can do, managing this data, including updates to the data, and keeping it easily available by referencing it to individual pipes, ensuring that full value is obtained from the survey cost.”
“The second interesting area is data accuracy. InfoNet can view, tidy up, and provide an engineering validation of the data it imports from other systems, based on rules that the user chooses. This is often the first major validation exercise that has been applied to the data, even for data that has been routinely used as the basis for important decisions. The results can be surprising, with users finding rather more errors than they would have expected. After the level of accuracy of existing data has been exposed, the confidence that a data validation function brings is doubly welcome.”
“The third aspect I would highlight is the relationship with other data systems. We had always seen InfoNet as working alongside, not replacing, other data systems, with GIS the obvious one that comes to mind. Potential users struggled to grasp the idea of the need for both a GIS and InfoNet – don’t they compete with each other? Experience has shown that InfoNet can indeed co-exist with the user’s GIS, and that the two systems both have their different and equally valid purposes within hydraulic engineering departments. There is no conflict. GIS is the place for viewing, maintaining and distributing general mapping data, while InfoNet does the same job for hydraulic network data. Transfer of data between the two, and between InfoNet and other data systems, is well supported.
“These are just three headlines among many factors that underline the value of InfoNet to hydraulic engineering departments. Having identified this entirely new concept of a network information system for water organizations, the progress over the last year has now provided proof of concept in the real world. The market is beginning to see the essential need for InfoNet in its systems strategy'