Finding the right scalable technology is crucial for the water industry to meet its challenges. Here’s how Intelligent Water Networks helps with this in Victoria.

Water corporations face common challenges – ageing infrastructure, changing climates and population growth. But with daily operational demands, it’s not easy to dedicate time and resources to find scalable technology to solve these challenges and provide better outcomes for corporations and customers.

In Victoria, this is where Intelligent Water Networks (IWN) comes in. It represents 16 Victorian water corporations, acting as a collective safe sandpit for testing and trialling technology. IWN’s trials assess whether technology can solve common problems, drive business efficiencies and achieve better customer outcomes.

It also runs Champions – a two-year leadership program – to develop tomorrow’s leaders for the water industry through professional development, coaching and mentoring. With IWN’s ten-year anniversary passing quietly in the blur of 2020, it’s time for an update. Here is a glimpse of IWN’s eight programs and what they are focusing on at the moment.

Asset management and optimisation

This program helps water corporations manage assets effectively and optimise performance with better tools and technologies. It is currently working on a PumpCheckR2 trial with five water corporations to optimise pump station operational expenses. It is also trialling remote level sensor technology to collect height data and levels from streams, intermediate bulk containers, reservoirs and potable water tanks without having to attend a remote site.

Biosolids and resource recovery

This program assesses and runs projects to manage the pressing issue of biosolids. It is working on a pilot plant to turn biosolids into biochar, which is a significant trial in partnership with RMIT and South East Water. The pilot is being held at a Western Water treatment plant. If successful, it will provide a pathway for the industry to turn waste into a usable, value-add product.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing

IWN’s unique role in trialling technology on behalf of the Victorian water industry also means it is well positioned to share information and introduce new innovations to the sector. To this end, the program manages an annual conference, a popular monthly webinar series and other initiatives. It aims to not only share IWN’s work but to foster more collaboration and knowledge sharing across the industry.

Data and analytics

Good decisions depend on good data and that’s what this program is about. It looks into technologies designed to better manage and analyse data, so water corporations can make cost-effective asset decisions. At the moment, this program is working closely with ten Victorian water corporations on an automated sewer CCTV footage trial with the potential to reduce the manual review of this footage by about 85 per cent. If successful, the program will consider artificial intelligence options related to the trial’s findings.

Digital metering solutions

This is IWN’s newest program. It aims to share knowledge and resources to support digital metering adoption across Victoria. The team is working on a 2021 water industry State of Play report, showing where each Victorian water corporation is on their digital metering journey.

It is also developing a state-based business case template and economic model for all IWN member water corporations to use and share their learnings.

Edge technologies

As the name suggests, this program investigates new and emerging technologies on behalf of the Victorian water industry, avoiding risk and expense that might otherwise put individual corporations off trying these innovations.

One of its most successful trials to date is underway – using augmented reality headsets to support field workers. The headset connects into Zoom or Microsoft Teams so support staff in the office or elsewhere can see what the field worker sees and send them information. The field worker receives information and records data through the headset, hands free.

This technology was especially useful during 2020, allowing site commissioning to continue despite COVID restrictions. It has also worked well for inductions to high-risk sites and safety audits in remote locations.

Energy and carbon

This program focuses on developing a shared understanding of how the industry can reduce emissions, optimise energy usage and work together towards zero emissions.

At the moment, the team is looking at fugitive wastewater emissions, working with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) on a report detailing measurement and reporting methods, process innovations and optimisation methods. This will be available for water corporations to inform work on mitigating fugitive wastewater emissions.

Pipeline intelligence

This program investigates new technologies to refine pipe replacement, reduce costs and minimise service interruptions. It is currently testing a modular sewer monitoring solution that monitors levels, flow and hydrogen sulfide. The trial aims to provide information to the water corporation so they can detect issues early and deal with them proactively, reducing customer impacts.

More information

IWN is a membership-based organisation, driven by the industry and the hard work of its Executive Group, Champions, Program Managers, deputies and working group members who all have jobs at water corporations.

To find out more about IWN’s programs, head to its website at where you’ll find an interactive map showing the technology trials currently underway across Victoria.

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