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Evolution to revolution: Waternet to WaterNet Pro

Innovation has always been a key driver for Ofwat and Water Companies to improve performance. This article highlights how an ever-growing digital transformation agenda, supported by an ever-expanding Internet of Things is creating innovation momentum acrosss the water sector.

14 September 2020 | 7 min read
Dr Joe Sanders

UK

Whether you're controlling leakage or managing discharges to watercourses, the need to improve process, materials, equipment or modelling persists. Alongside this is an ever-growing digital transformation agenda, supported by an ever-expanding Internet of Things - meaning the scope to innovate has never been greater.

However, the path to achieve innovation isn’t easy. Over the years and various AMP cycles we’ve seen many barriers to innovation, including the constraints imposed by the targets and requirements of a highly regulated industry. However, with the commencement of AMP7 and call for innovation ringing in our ears, organisations must evolve to deliver the change that is needed to meet expectations of regulators and customers.

RPS has been developing industry leading water resource management software for over 20 years, such as Perform, LMARS and Waternet®. These tools and platforms are designed to deliver greater insight into, among other things, leakage performance. Today, 11 water companies across the UK use Waternet to help them with their leakage management calculations, helping them reduce leakage – to date, this equates to over 200Mld between 2017-18 and 2019-20, the equivalent of 80 Olympic sized swimming pools. This is a significant saving in terms of protecting our natural resources and meeting regulatory and customer expectations.

Water resources management software

Waternet is used by these water companies to measure the flow and pressure across thousands of DMAs in near real-time, and store data from an equivalent number of assets, such as PRVs, meters, valves and loggers. The insights achieved with this level of data, has facilitated the adaptation of methodologies and processes to allow water companies to develop their awareness of serviceability and performance of the network. This has led to better strategies to reactively and proactively manage the network and meet evolving regulatory requirements. Many of these strategies have steered further improvement in data quality and robustness, allowing for continuous improvement. With the likely further reductions in leakage targets in AMP8, this journey is only just beginning.

Waternet has been developed over the years in collaboration with our clients in response to their needs while maintaining its core functionality. For example, Waternet can calculate natural rate of rise and the background level of leakage in an area. This functionality allows water companies to perform their own analysis activities in this area - work that would previously have been completed by an external consultant. The water companies taking ownership of these activities has resulted in a financial benefit, but more importantly, a better understanding of the data and network by their own analysts.

Our active user group comprising industry users, leakage practitioners and our own water specialists, have played their part. Every year this group meets and reviews the current features of Waternet with a view to ideating new, beneficial solutions. Over the years, these small, incremental “crowd sourced” innovations have been collaboratively scoped at these events and have improved our collective understanding of the leakage problem we face as an industry.

A new spatial asset management reporting and analysis platform

Alongside water resource management, we also have significant experience delivering innovative approaches to sewerage management planning. However, incremental tools which have benefitted existing processes, or improved targeted areas of urban drainage management, have also been developed in an ad-hoc or as-needed manner. But these small innovations have led to full-blown tools and solutions, including the rapid flood routing tools PondSIM and FlowBot which optimise data visualisation, analysis and machine learning methods to deliver 80%-time savings. [See article]

But with AMP6 providing our networks with a significant upturn in monitoring points, the introduction of ‘Event Duration Monitors’ checking ‘Combined Sewer Outflow’ performance and network monitors identifying restrictions in the system, adding to a telemetry network often focussed on pumping stations and treatment works - there was a clear opportunity to do something different, something disruptive.

Building on the concept of ‘situational awareness’ we wanted to support our clients to make informed network decisions based on the available information from one, single location. Based on this need, the concept of WaterNet Pro® was born. WaterNet Pro provides one location where available catchment information can be accessed, interrogated and actioned before an incident occurs - moving from a reactive to a proactive, preventative intervention approach to serviceability management. [See predictive analysis]

Exploitation of the cloud was a critical part of this process. Moving from on-premises software to cloud based software as a service, the RPS Azure environment has been harnessed to drive WaterNet Pro - providing access to live telemetry and monitoring information, and rapid access to global mapping, asset and catchment performance information. WaterNet Pro is a true digital twin, where decisions can be made based on live information, supported by historical performance.

An alerting module has been the first step along this process. Combining external live streams and cloud-to-cloud client connections, live catchment data is analysed against performance windows and critical serviceability thresholds, generating alerts requiring action. This module has also been configured to ingest predictive alarms from Innovyze ICM Live, allowing predictive responses to be compared with reality.

With weather being a critical aspect of sewerage management, access to rainfall information to support status alerts and decision making is critical. Whether this is harnessing data already owned by water companies or accessing the inbuilt weather analysis elements of WaterNet Pro, we can understand the wet/dry causality of events.

From source to tap and back again

WaterNet Pro, however, is not limited to Wastewater. A critical part of our innovation journey is that situational awareness is required on all networks, clean and dirty. So, the roadmap for the development of WaterNet Pro will encompass the transition and enhancement of our existing Waternet products into the cloud, providing software as a service solution to all water companies, water utility providers, asset managers and more. The advantage this provides is the ability to develop and integrate clean and waste services within our development process, optimising the time it takes for software to be available to our clients to deliver benefits to their customers.

Learning from analysis undertaken for wastewater clients, we have begun to develop a water quality offering for our clean water clients too. This combines existing learnings with data that’s already been collected by WaterNet Pro for flow monitoring to provide deeper insight into water quality. Having waste and clean water engineers working side by side on these initiatives allows faster cross pollination of ideas, taking innovations from one sector and applying them to the other. This compliments the already existing functionality that will be ported to the new platform, allowing us to take advantage of these new capabilities.

Collaboration with clients

In the development of WaterNet Pro we’ve adopted the Agile Innovation process. This has been another step in our innovation journey - where success is derived by achieving a balance between short-term sprint goals and the long-term objectives to ensure the project delivers its intended goal.

A key aspect of this process of disruptive innovation has been collaboration. Not just with clients as we onboard into WaterNet Pro, but across our own technical and development teams. Continuous deployment also provides clients with new experiences as we evolve, always seeking forward momentum. With all stakeholders understanding the roadmap, we can plan out new features and modules, while understanding the benefit of those features, enabling us to achieve clean and wastewater goals together.

Final word

So, can disruptive innovation occur? And does it need belief and support of the business? Yes. Taking the innovation pathway will drive a business in a new direction while delivering tangible improvements to client serviceability, now and in the future. That first step can be a leap of faith, but it’s a crucial one if our industry is to meet, not only their regulatory targets, but the sustainability goals of a resource-scarce world.

 

For more information, please contact, Dr. Joe Sanders joe.sanders@rpsgroup.com

Download the full article below. 

This article was first published in the Institute of Water Magazine.

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Today, 11 water companies across the UK use Waternet to help them with their leakage management calculations, helping them reduce leakage – to date, this equates to over 200Mld between 2017-18 and 2019-20, the equivalent of 80 Olympic sized swimming pools. This is a significant saving in terms of protecting our natural resources and meeting regulatory and customer expectations.

Dr Joe Sanders

Senior Technical Director