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SA Water has analysed the results from its sewer surveillance trial, which uses smart technology to help stop sewer blockages, with almost 30 potential overflows prevented over the past two years.

As part of a pilot program in Stonyfell, east of Adelaide, a fleet of 82 level sensors are spread across more than 11km of the suburb’s reticulated sewer mains to provide near real-time alerts on wastewater levels flowing from residential properties through to the SA Water network.

SA Water Data Scientist, Luke Dix, said the pilot program further proves the utility’s success in using new technology to improve services for customers.

“Installed in 2019, the level sensors monitor sewage flows within the Stonyfell wastewater system at five-minute intervals, with any disparities – such as low flow caused by a blockage – triggering an alarm system for further investigation by our team,” Mr Dix said.

“The complex layout of the Stonyfell sewer network has seen a historically high rate of blockages, but within just two years of this pilot program, around 40 per cent of all wastewater blockages were detected helping to prevent overflows impacting customers and the surrounding environment, which is an encouraging result.

“This focus on proactive prevention, rather than reactive maintenance or repair, has also underpinned a reduction in average maintenance costs by around 43 per cent, which is important in keeping prices sustainably low and stable for our customers.

“While we know not every blockage or overflow can be prevented, the results so far demonstrate that incorporating smart technology in our day-to-day operations can make a real difference in reducing their frequency.

“This two-year trial is just the start of how we’re using technology in South Australian sewers, with work already underway to investigate the effectiveness of using smart sensors across metropolitan Adelaide.

“Being innovative in our approach to managing the sewer network is part of our role in keeping the sewers healthy, and for our customers, all they need to do is only flush the three Ps – (toilet) paper, pee and poo, to keep fats, oils and foreign objects out of the pipes.”

SA Water’s smart wastewater trial follows the successful use of Internet of Things technology in targeted parts of South Australia’s water network, with hundreds of leak-detecting acoustic sensors helping to proactively discover and repair underground pipe leaks across metropolitan and suburban Adelaide.

“Our use of Internet of Things technology is just one way we are evolving our approach towards asset management for the benefit of our customers,” Mr Dix said.

“We continue to learn more about smart technology and how we can best use it to improve services, and we believe the number of detections in our smart wastewater network will continue to increase over time.”

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