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by Mark Halliwell, Taggle Systems

Looking for a new TV? If so, you won’t have missed the latest models advertising a massive 4K resolution that offer immersive viewing, natural-looking images, a richer, wider colour range, high-quality sound and more. We’ve come a long way from the old black and white models with their 576i resolution. But what about our water utilities? Are they getting the benefit of higher resolution data made available through new technologies?

Most water utilities have a SCADA system which monitors and controls many aspects of their water capture, transmission and treatment but, when it comes to distribution, many utilities have little or no monitoring at all.

What may come as a surprise to many is that the assets not being monitored in a meaningful way often account for up to 60 per cent of the utility’s overall asset value.

So, why don’t most water utilities have detailed monitoring on a significant part of their assets? Well, like a lot of things, it comes down to cost.

Until recently, communications options for the monitoring of water meters, flow meters, sewer overflow sensors, pressure sensors, rain gauges, weather stations and the like were limited to point-to-point data radios, the mobile telephone network and meshed radio networks.

While each of these was capable from a technical standpoint, the economics of collecting data from hundreds or thousands of low-value endpoints using these methods was impossible to justify. Times have changed.

The advent of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) is making the collection of data from low-value field devices much more affordable, and the insights being revealed through finally having a better view of what’s happening in reticulation networks are transforming the way utilities run their businesses.

Imagine being able to put a sewer overflow sensor in every chamber, and having rain gauges throughout your region.

Imagine what you could learn through being able to correlate high density rainfall data with sewer behaviour. The impact on your management of inflow and infiltration would be enormous.

Do you have water bores in your area? Would it help to have high-resolution aquifer level data to compare to high-resolution rainfall data?

Groundwater managers are already using LPWAN to collect such data, leading to a better understanding of aquifer drawdown and recharge rates.

With demand management being such a hot topic in water supply circles, particularly where water security is uncertain, hourly data from all of your customers’ meters, district flow meters and other outlets can expose a variety of water use reduction possibilities: customer-side leaks, network leaks, forgotten meters, unauthorised connections and incorrectly sized meters and pipes.

More pressure readings from around your water supply network will give you greater ability and confidence in managing network pressure, extending the life of your pipes, reducing losses through existing leaks and, maybe, giving you a head start on avoiding costly catastrophic pipe bursts.

Business managers are familiar with the idea that if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. While the origin of this notion is somewhat cloudy, there is no doubt that having data which gives you better information on what’s happening in your water or sewerage network is a good thing.

So, just like the 4K TV, having LPWAN communications in place unlocks a rich source of data which will give you a much clearer picture of your assets.

Beware, however, of getting too immersive – particularly if you look after the sewage.

This partner content is brought to you by Taggle. For more information, visit www.taggle.com.au

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