SA Water and Horizon Power were jointly awarded Digital Utility of the Year at the 2018 Digital Utility Awards, held in Melbourne on 19 April. This award recognises utilities that have showcased the best use and implementation of digital technologies, tools and processes across their organisation and we’re going to take a closer look at SA Water’s winning entry.

To keep pace with changing customer expectations, SA Water is evolving its service delivery practices. For example, fault reporting is now available online, with information sent directly to the control centre for job allocation.

In 2017, SA Water introduced mySAWater, an online portal that allows residential customers to view their water use, make payments and see their payment history, plus update their personal details. Customers can also use mySAWater to receive eBills, manage payment extensions and schedule direct debit payments.

In Adelaide’s Central Business District (CBD), 70 business properties are connected to 100 smart meters which record water consumption. These customers have access to detailed property information, current meter readings, average daily consumption compared to the rest of the network, and water consumption in weekly, daily and hourly increments. They can actively
monitor their water consumption online through a digital reporting tool, mySmartWater.

Digital technology has also improved SA Water’s internal processes, with field crews now using a custom-built Work Order App. The app directly dispatches jobs to field staff via their mobile phone or tablet, and they can update the status of each job as they arrive, undertake the repair and mark it as complete.

To support people management and safety, SA Water uses ‘SPOT trackers’ for crews in remote areas. This GPS device sends location data every 10 minutes, which can be viewed by colleagues and family members via any web browser.

Creating a more intelligent water network

One of SA Water’s most innovative projects is its smart water network in the Adelaide CBD, which uses acoustic sensors, pressure and flow data, high speed transient pressure sensors, smart meters and water quality sensors to improve water services and network reliability.

The first stage of the smart water network program integrated more than 400 sensors across the Adelaide CBD between April and July 2017.

Dr Helen Edmonds, Manager of Water Assets at SA Water and architect of the smart network program, said that SA Water is the first water utility in the world to implement such a broad range of sensors and utilise Internet of Things technology at scale within a defined geographical area.

“The combination and volume of sensors installed across the water network in Adelaide hasn’t been seen before, and it is delivering outcomes and learnings that will be applicable right across the country,” Dr Edmonds said.

“Although our network performance is among the best in Australia, we know that any water main break or service interruption has an impact on our customers, and we want to reduce that as much as possible.

“Identifying a potential leak and intervening has been hugely rewarding, but there’s also been a sense of accomplishment in analysing the data and understanding the immediacy of some sudden ruptures that didn’t offer any warning signs.”

The sensors have prevented over 15 water main breaks or leaks since they began monitoring and collecting data in July 2017, and are allowing SA Water to plan and schedule more repairs in advance.

“By identifying it when it’s a leak, and before it becomes a major failure, we can actually plan to go and repair it overnight, minimising traffic disruption. It’s also safer because you can think it through, plan it all out, have traffic management and everything properly setup. The field team has more time to do the work. Whereas, if it’s a sudden failure that’s just happened, they’ve got to go out and fix it straight away,” Dr Edmonds said.
Data as a change-enabler

Network data is transmitted in five to 15 minute intervals to an analytics platform at the utility’s Adelaide-based operations control centre, where staff work closely with experts to measure and interpret the noises, pressure waves and flow.

Dr Edmonds said that more and more utilities are recognising the value of data and exploring ways to leverage it.

“You can’t make informed decisions without good information and good data. You need to be making informed decisions to make good decisions. Data is really important for us, and everyone I’m talking to is definitely going down the path of collecting more information about what’s happening in their networks, so they can make both short-term and long-term decisions about what to do with their networks, their assets, and everything else.”

The smart water network program has delivered a variety of learnings for SA Water, enabling it to make continuous program improvements.

“Of the acoustic sensors we’ve rolled out, we’ve moved about half of them around and optimised where we put them in the network. We’ve learned a lot about the sensors we put out, and about their capabilities,” Dr Edmonds said.

“We learned that we could react quickly as a business and that was a big shift for us. Instead of analysing absolutely everything and then doing, we started doing and then changed things as we went. It’s a different mindset for the business and just doing something different and innovative got everyone in the business excited and wanting to be part of it.”

SA Water have been open about sharing the results of this project with the rest of the industry and Dr Edmonds hopes that more utilities will invest in trials of emerging technologies.

“My biggest thing would be: just do it. Learn from it, adapt it, and then grow from there. You’ll get some stuff wrong, and you’ll get some stuff right. At the end of the day, as long as you get more wins than fails, then you just keep learning and growing and extending what you know about your network and your organisation.”

SA Water are extending the smart network program to Adelaide’s wider metropolitan area and are also using smart technology to undertake projects in pressure management and non-revenue water management in both urban and regional communities.

The Digital Utility Awards will return early 2019. Stay up-to-date with the Digital Utilities newsletter to find out more about this year’s winners and finalists. 

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