Digital innovation is transforming the way Hunter Water operates its water network, helping to maximise efficiency, reduce water losses and drive better outcomes for its customers and community.

Hunter Water provides drinking water, wastewater, recycled water and some stormwater services to a population of almost 600,000 people in the Lower Hunter region in NSW. With more than 5,000km of water pipes, the utility is increasingly looking for new, more innovative ways to reduce leakage.

The latest National Performance Report shows that Hunter Water has reduced leakage by 20 per cent in three years. This encouraging result has been achieved in part by investing in and implementing an aggressive active leak detection program. Last financial year saw the entire water network surveyed, up from a historic norm of 20 per cent, or 1,000km, of the network per year.

Hunter Water is utilising technologies to understand where water is going and how it can better prioritise its efforts to find leaks. It is also implementing smart software such as TaKaDu to identify hidden leaks and help prioritise leak detection work. This has recently been expanded to cover a quarter of the water network.

Trial underway to improve network visibility

Hunter Water is also in the early stages of a digital innovation trial at Lake Macquarie and Maitland, which is helping to find and fix hidden leaks and predict water main breaks before they occur. The trial is using Internet of Things (IoT) devices with data science, and acoustic monitoring technology, to monitor the water pressure and flow in parts of the network.

Hunter Water’s Chief Information and Technology Officer, Richard Harris, said the trial was an exciting opportunity for Hunter Water.

“This is a first-of-its-kind digital innovation project for Hunter Water and the early results are promising. Intelligent networks are helping transform the way we do business, driving better outcomes for our customers and community,” Mr Harris said.

“We’re using the latest in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and data science to more effectively understand the operation of our network. This involves using devices like pressure sensors and flow meters on our water infrastructure between Dora Creek and Arcadia Vale.

“These devices, combined with the use of advanced analytics, enables us to monitor the water flow and pressure in real time, giving us greater visibility of how the system is performing. Having that visibility allows us to more quickly find and respond to breaks if they occur, particularly those in remote locations.

“Part of the trial has also involved working with data scientists to model breaks, with an aim to predict and prevent them from occurring. We are doing this by applying machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to analyse data in real time.

“We’re also undertaking acoustic monitoring in Louth Park and Glendale. This technology gives us an opportunity to listen for water leaks in our network and it alerts us if a leak is getting worse. In the first few months of the trial, we have already identified more than a dozen leaks in remote locations. These leaks could have potentially gone undetected so this is a really promising start.

“Leaks can sometimes be a precursor to a water main break, so the sooner we find leaks, the sooner we can fix them and minimise any potential impact on our customers and community.”

Monitoring pump performance

IoT devices are also being trialled to understand the behaviour, health and lifecycle of Hunter Water’s pumps across its water network, and so far the results have been promising.

A total of 34 devices have been installed to monitor the vibration, tone and temperature of the pumps. This information, combined with Hunter Water’s data, provides a more accurate picture of how the pumps are performing and alerts crews to potential issues before they occur.

“Hunter Water is committed to reducing leakage and operating its water network as efficiently as possible. Digital innovation and new technologies are helping us to find smarter, more innovative ways to do business and deliver even better outcomes for our customers and community,” Mr Harris said.

“It’s extremely exciting for these trials to be underway. If successful, we hope to expand them to other parts of our network and apply the learnings to future projects.”

Siobhan Day is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and Pump Industry magazine, and has been part of the team since early 2019. With a background in management in the non-profit sector, Siobhan has extensive experience in communications, professional writing and client management. She holds a Bachelor of Business and Communications and is currently completing a postgraduate degree.

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