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Sydney Water is implementing a large-scale wastewater monitoring Internet of Things (IoT) deployment, which will see the company spend $15 million dollars to install over 26,000 blockage detection devices across 4,600km of wastewater infrastructure by June 2024.

Sydney Water has already installed 9,000 devices across the Sydney wastewater network that causes 70 per cent of overflows to the waterways.

The sensors detect about 20 blockages in the gravity wastewater network per month on average, saving approximately $400,000 in incident costs.

Sensors are installed on existing wastewater infrastructure, frequently sending back data readings. These data readings are pre-configured to trigger an alarm when certain thresholds are met to indicate a potential blockage. These alarms allow Sydney Water to act on the issue before a wastewater overflow occurs.

As the system detects blockages in wastewater pipes before they lead to wastewater discharge into customer properties and the environment, incidents can be avoided that could pose a public health risk and incur massive clean-up costs and result in reputation damage.

The devices – from project partner Kallipr and Metasphere – are data loggers attached to sensors that communicate regular data readings.

The loggers are pre-configured to alert operators when the data indicates that a potential blockage has occurred. This allows a rapid response from Sydney Water, resulting in more efficient management of its assets.

Sydney Water Head of Operational Technology, Craig Earl, is excited about the multi-million dollar initiative.

“This is a transformational project for Sydney Water. We’re stepping into the Internet of Things with internet-connected devices. We’re leading the industry on some of this new deployment, which is resulting in massive savings via early detection of blockages in our wastewater network,” Mr Earl said.

Sydney Water’s Internet of Things Manager, Christoph Prackwieser, echoed these sentiments.

“So far, some 400 blockages at environmentally high-risk sites have been identified and cleared. We are saving $400,000 a month in avoidance costs with this technology,” Mr Prackwieser said.

The majority of blockages are caused by tree roots penetrating pipes or access chambers, although grease and wet wipes also contribute to blockage build-up.

The sensors can withstand high humidity and water immersion. The five-year battery life reduces the need for maintenance and site visits significantly. The devices can reliably and securely record and send data from remote and difficult-to-access areas by operating on the NB-IoT network.

More than 8,800 sensing devices have been installed in the past 18 months, and the deployment work continues at a rate of between 160 and 210 devices a week.

Sydney Water envisages there will ultimately be tens of thousands of devices in the field.

Installing the devices will allow Sydney Water to build on its highly successful wastewater management project. It is driving the digitisation of its existing wastewater networks and allowing for proactive management of blockage events within the infrastructure.

Feature Image (L-R): Installation of one of 26,000 wastewater blockage detection devices. Provided by Sydney Water.

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