Innovyze

IWLive provides advanced forecasting and scenario evaluation to the water distribution system control room

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Courtesy of Innovyze

As the powerful advantages of the modeling of water distribution systems become increasingly more apparent, MWH Soft’s IWLive makes those benefits accessible to control room staff leading to greater efficiency, cost savings and an improved service for customers.

Water supply operators are under a duty to provide a clean supply of water, of sufficient quantity and pressure to satisfy a range of end-users such as domestic customers, businesses and state run facilities. The inability to provide this service to a reasonable level makes it hard for water utilities to justify service charges and in many parts of the world makes the utility liable for fines.

Historically water distribution systems, their pumps and their valves, were operated manually by engineers in the field switching on and off pumps and opening and closing valves. Increasingly the application of technology has made this process more efficient allowing a single operator to remotely control all the pumps and strategic valves in a network. This offered significant improvements to the management of the system, allowing fine-grain control over the state of the system, providing a better service whilst at the same time leading to greater efficiency and cost savings.

Improvements in technology also meant that operators also gained instant access to a wealth of data sources fed from their system. For example operators can be updated about the water level and flow at water sources, at the water treatment plant and at reservoirs through modern telemetry systems. These data systems can also provide alerts to operators of where a value goes outside normal limits.

It would be hoped that with instant access to both system controls and data the operation of a water distribution system would now be a simple and routine task. However systems have over time also become increasingly bigger and more complex. Many utilities are fortunate enough to benefit from operators with considerable personal experience in water distribution systems in general and in their utility in particular, but there are limitations to this approach:

First the complexity of water distribution systems and the number of different contributing factors can make it difficult for even the most experienced operator to determine the best course of action in a given circumstance and also to precisely determine any unavoidable outcomes of those actions. Also, seemingly simple and small systems can still throw up unexpected problems that have never been seen before. 

Secondly, a purely expert approach means that the knowledge of how to efficiently operate a particular system is reliant on a few individuals. If an experienced operator is unavailable, either short-term such as through sickness or long-term through retirement or moving on to a new organization, then very quickly decades of experience can be lost. Whilst it would never be suggested that a system could be operated without a qualified operator, it would seem only prudent to put in place a decision support system to assist the operator by showing the predicted effect of control changes.

Within most water utilities this expert system already exists in the form of mathematical modeling, using tools such as MWH Soft’s InfoWorks WS or InfoWater. For many years these products have been used to predict the behavior of water supply networks and have been routinely used to evaluate engineering options within the network. Additionally advances in computer technology now mean that entire water distribution systems are usually fully represented in a single model. The availability of these models meant that inevitably they would start to be used not only for modeling planned activities, but also to respond to major systems incidents, such as a burst trunk main. Rather than seeing modeling as a threat to their knowledge, operators have found that access to models enhances their knowledge of a system and that an operator’s experience is still required to select appropriate possible solutions to model.

However network models are still not used by operators in many situations for a number of reasons. First modeling systems often lack the accessibility required by network operators to make them practical to use on a regular basis. Full modeling packages usually require a relatively experienced user to operate them and often there can be some initial time required to ensure that a model has the most up-to-date data imported in order for it to give results to the required accuracy. As a result an operator often has to gain the resources of a modeling team and then guide them through a number of scenarios that need to be modeled. This obvious inefficiency leads to a reluctance to continually use modeling, meaning that its vast benefits are not fully employed by the utility. Another reason why operators may not use modeling is that they may not even be aware that a current set of circumstances will lead to an issue on the network. This inability to predict where a problem may occur in the future means that an operator’s experience may inefficiently be used to fire-fight an unforeseen issue, rather than to avert it in the first place.

MWH Soft has developed IWLive to meet the needs of water utilities to operate their distribution systems to the very highest standards, by making powerful modeling technology, found in InfoWorks WS and InfoWater, instantly accessible to water distribution system operators. IWLive equips the control room with tools that are both predictive and more reactive. It issues regularly updated warnings to draw the operator’s attention to problems that may occur in the coming minutes, hours, or days. The control room operator can see the predicted severity of problems and the time of onset in one easy to use interface. For example, given a low reservoir level data provided by a SCADA system integrated with the system, IWLive will model the outcomes on the water distribution system and will translate abstract level data into specific customer low pressure warnings that may not occur for another 24 hours.

Beyond automatic prediction, IWLive can also enable the control room operator to evaluate problem-solving approaches by simulating the closure of valves or a change in a pump’s operating schedule. An  additional  “isolate pipe tool” enhances this process by allowing an operator to quickly identify and close all the valves in a model to isolate a broken pipe.  IWLive quickly produces a second simulation that can be compared with the first to determine the level of improvement, the problems that remain and the customers who will be affected.

The IWLive interface is fully optimized for operator use. It allows operators to see a map of all water infrastructures for which they are responsible, including appropriate background maps. Highlighted color coding shows predicted problem areas; a single click produces a detailed map showing pipes, valves, pumps, reservoirs and other water assets. Animation of the map shows the development of the problem; graphs show simulated pressures and reservoir levels.

With increasingly complex water distribution systems, utilities are rapidly realizing the need to harness the power of hydraulic modeling in the control room. IWLive provides an affordable solution tailored to the day-to-day needs of system operators, whilst at the same time meeting the primary needs of a utility to supply a clean and reliable supply of water in the most cost-effective manner. 

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