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Wellington Bay, New Zealand

Getting under infrastructure's skin Tom Joseph

Smart infrastructure solutions squeeze more value out of existing assets, and nowhere is this more important than in our water and wastewater infrastructure.

When water and wastewater assets fail, we tend to find out when the taps run dry or when the sewers overflow. Establishing what the fault is and its exact location using physical evidence above ground takes time, especially where much of the infrastructure is buried, leading to unacceptable loss of service. However, by applying data-based systems we can get a much better idea about how water assets are performing.

We developed a smart infrastructure system which visualises the performance of water assets, enabling optimisation and focused maintenance. H2knOw-how comprises sensors installed at critical points of the water or wastewater network, collecting real-time information on flow rates, water levels and pressures. This is combined with core asset information and performance data sourced from BIM and GIS models, asset management systems, hydraulic models and external sources such as SCADA.

Fed into a powerful middleware application, the data is scrubbed, analysed and cross-referenced, creating an accurate visualisation of how the water asset is performing in real time. Asset managers are automatically notified of any anomalies in performance, and H2knOw-how can facilitate automated responses such as pipe closures or redirection for pre-defined incident scenarios.

So far, 12 local authorities use H2knOw-how to actively monitor their water and wastewater assets, optimising performance and providing a better and cheaper service to end users.

In Auckland, the city council manages over NZ$5bn of storm water assets, but depended on a paper-based system as well as audits of thousands of as-built drawings and CCTV videos in order to design renewal plans. H2knOw-how was brought in to digitise the entire management system and is now driving over NZ$10M in critical asset renewal projects. Real-time asset data provides an understanding of current performance, while data storage provides access to historic data, replacing the paper based tracking system.

Our smart infrastructure solution has brought cost savings of over 20% through efficiency gains, and has minimised the need for external project management, bringing extra transparency to the work of Auckland City Council and giving residents confidence that their money is being spent where needed.

H2knOw-how also aids asset recovery in the event of a natural disaster. This was the case in Christchurch following the devastating earthquake in 2011 which destroyed a quarter of all city centre buildings and irreparably damaged up to 10,000 homes. The wastewater network suffered numerous ruptures.

Five years earlier we had set up H2knOw-how on the city’s wastewater network. Post-quake, this helped to identify breakages by comparing before and after data, immediately highlighting anomalies. Faults were easily located, and data analysis enabled us to measure the level of damage sustained, differentiating between severed pipes and those which had suffered less extensive damage, and allowing action to be prioritised.

Although it took physical action to fix damage, smart infrastructure proved indispensable and saved valuable time, money and resources.

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