Bluetooth technology

SA Water’s Crystal Brook-based maintenance team has turned to Bluetooth technology to improve water services for its regional customers.

The innovative technology, part of a South Australian-first process, connects with a hands-free extendable arm to remotely open and shut water main valves through a process known as ‘exercising’ – which is vital in making sure the drinking water supply network is operating as normal.

SA Water’s General Manager Asset Operations and Delivery, Mark Gobbie, said the technology is used much like Bluetooth on a smartphone and has already improved the water network while protecting employee safety.

“Valves are important in controlling the flow of water through the network to our customers in any planned shutdown or emergency, and therefore we need to make sure they are always working as normal to limit potential temporary water disruptions to customers should they arise,” Mr Gobbie said.

“However, regularly loosening the valve’s mechanics and clearing debris is a manually exhausting and physical process for our people, with winding large valves requiring at least four people to safely complete.

“Being able to improve our pipe operations from the palm of our hands now makes exercising water valves a low-risk, one-person activity, which is a great result for our people and our customers.

“This is an innovation delivered by our dedicated major pipeline maintenance team at Crystal Brook, and we’re keen to see how the success of this trial can translate to sites across South Australia.”

The technology applies torque power to test the valve’s movement, as well as creating graphs and collecting data on the valve’s operations, ensuring SA Water has the exact data to make informed, cost-effective decisions on follow-up repairs and maintenance in the future.

Since implementing the technology, at least seven previously un-operatable valves along the Morgan to Whyalla, Swan Reach and Woomera pipeline networks have been successfully restored, saving potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in replacement costs.

“The health and safety of our people is our number one priority, and innovations like this are a great example of how we can reduce manual handling risks while improving the water network for our customers,” Mr Gobbie said.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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