Water Utilities

Enabling Real-Time Information: Bridging the Dark Data Gap

In our increasingly digital world, utilities have greater access to real-time information on the operating conditions, performance, and health of their infrastructure. This enables more efficient operations and better-informed planning decisions, more proactive response to network events, and more preventive or predictive maintenance of critical assets. Data can come from a wide range of sources—field applications, SCADA platforms, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems, weather forecasts, and social media. This large amount of data can be overwhelming, quickly becoming dark data—data that is gathered and stored, often in departmental silos, but not used in any meaningful way.

The value of a dynamic, holistic view of system conditions cannot be overstated. During outages, extreme weather events, and other emergencies, mounting a proactive, coordinated response is crucial. Esri’s real-time data integration capabilities are designed to turn data into actionable information, enabling staff to visualize and analyze real-time data across both time and space, regardless of source. This provides an at-a-glance view of where individual data feeds are and how they relate to each other, customers, assets and network processes, and events. Viewing data within charts, graphs, maps, dashboards, and more turn dark data into meaningful and actionable content. Feeding this data into Esri’s analytics and third-party partner machine learning applications provides optimization and prediction tools that support operations, maintenance, and investment planning decisions.

Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) visualizes real-time data from its OSIsoft PI data historian, Telog data logger fleet, and ArcGIS.

Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, provides wholesale wastewater treatment services to 18 cities and counties across a 3,100-square-mile service area. HRSD integrates real-time data from its OSIsoft PI data historian and Telog data logger fleet. They transmit live readings from approximately 200 flowmeters, 200 pressure sensors, and 70 rain gauges—to its ArcGIS office and field applications. Operations and maintenance staff access up-to-date information on network conditions from anywhere in the field to monitor and manage critical infrastructure during wet weather and high tide events, while office staff access and analyze historical data on system performance over time.

Real-time data integration also enables utilities to turn static engineering and design models into dynamic replicas of real-world assets and processes. These models can be used to optimize asset management and investment decisions, monitor real-time operational performance, and simulate network events and scenarios for planning and training purposes.

White House Utility District (WHUD) dashboard visualizes district metered area (DMA) zones, water loss in each zone, and cost of water loss in dollars.

ArcGIS plays a critical role in the White House Utility District’s (WHUD) real-time water loss program, providing the foundation for what is essentially a dynamic digital twin—a virtual model of its sectorized distribution network, which replicates and reflects real-world network conditions and events as they unfold. The utility uses ArcGIS to integrate all critical information, including real-time flowmeter data and field crew updates, with custom-configured office dashboards and field applications. Every morning, WHUD’s water loss analysts consult these dashboards for up-to-date readings from their district metered area flowmeters. Potential problem areas are identified on a color-coded GIS map of their service area. Dollar values of lost water are displayed for each DMA in the district. Staff can usually pinpoint a leak within hours—a drastic reduction in time, cost, and water loss. WHUD’s engineering team estimates the total direct savings of the program to be US$1 million per year, with more than US$200,000 of that coming from early leak detection.

Utilities using Esri technology to integrate, view, and understand their data also have many tools available within ArcGIS to share this data. Sharing data more broadly with regional partners, regulatory agencies, and the public can improve planning, coordination, and response, making communities safer and more resilient.

Over 90 percent of the 500 largest US utilities use ArcGIS to manage their water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. The ArcGIS system that your utility has likely already invested in for mapping can do so much more for your organization. ArcGIS capabilities range from facilitating better coordination and collaboration between field and office staff to visualizing and analyzing real-time data from across your service area to providing more precise, granular models of the performance and behavior of your critical plant and network assets.

What steps can you take to start your real-time journey?

To learn more about real-time integration and digital water transformation, download the new reportGIS & Digital Water: The Foundational Role of GIS in Digital Water Transformation.”

About the author

Christa Campbell

Christa is an experienced water industry professional with 20 years of success using and promoting technology to solve problems in the water industry. Recognized for Industry thought leadership, strategic thinking, and building success with organizations across the globe. She is a passionate GIS advocate, lifelong learner and collaborator. Builds success jointly with teammates, peers, and customers. Christa is a certified GIS Professional and holds a graduate degree in Geography.

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