Innovation leads to a State-of-the-Art GIS for a Regional Sewer Utility

There’s a special place in Connecticut where a group of innovative and thoughtful engineers and planners have developed an organization that understands the community they serve, and the challenges associated with maintaining a healthy and safe environment. If a sewer system backs up or a flood event causes a network-wide disruption, the communities they serve are at risk.  The Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority (GNHWPCA, or Authority) understands these concerns and has worked closely with its operations staff and contractors to develop inspection, analysis, and reporting tools that help plan, mitigate, and reduce risk as well as response times when unexpected events occur.

The GNHWPCA is a regional water pollution control authority created in 2005 under Connecticut General Statutes Title 22A, Environmental Protection. The GNHWPCA was created to operate and maintain the wastewater system of the constituent municipalities, City of New Haven, Town of Hamden, Town of East Haven and Town of Woodbridge. 

Out of the four constituent municipalities, the City of New Haven is the only combined sewer system (CSS), a wastewater collection system designed to carry sanitary sewer wastewater and stormwater runoff in a single pipe to a treatment facility. In periods of heavy rainfall, total wastewater flows can exceed the capacity of the collection system and treatment facilities. When this occurs, the CSS is designed to overflow directly to surface water bodies such as rivers or coastal waters. These overflows are called combined sewer overflows (CSO). In 2001, prior to regionalization, the City of New Haven published its comprehensive CSO long term control plan as part of its requirements to comply with EPA’s Clean Water Act mandates. The long-term control plan included developing its GIS database to assist in the creation of the combined sewer system computer hydraulic model, and to perform pipe risk assessments to prioritize inspections and plan future rehabilitation projects. This was a good opportunity for the team of engineers, plant operators, construction, and finance professionals to combine forces and work toward the management of a common system that could be used to track the location and condition of all sewer utility assets. 

Senior engineer and GIS manager, Ricardo Ceballos, uses ArcGIS Pro to assess a proposed extension of sewer infrastructure.

Building a System of Record for Sewer Utility Assets

The Authority requested proposals from GIS consultants and hired an Esri business partner to help centralize its GIS data into a common Geodatabase. Langan Engineering and Environmental Services LLC (Langan) was awarded the contract and continues to serve the GNHWPCA to this day. Senior engineer and GIS manager, Ricardo Ceballos, stated the goal was bringing in a partner that was highly responsive and was consistently up to date with the latest ArcGIS technologies used for stormwater and sewer utilities. 

Today, the GNHWPCA engineering department utilizes ArcGIS to manage 600+ miles of sewer mains in its service area, and links to other helpful data feeds and sources like video captures from CCTV cameras used to inspect the inside of pipes and maintenance records.

“The flexibility of Esri’s configurable web application tools like Web App Builder and now its successor, Experience Builder, along with ArcGIS Dashboards have dramatically reduced the time it takes for us to provide GNHWPCA with helpful decision support maps and apps.”Tony Yates, Associate Principal/VP, Langan

Another important factor for Ceballos and the GNHWPCA team was having a partner that was willing to invest time understanding the GNHWPCA short and long-term goals. These goals included for example thinking ahead about how to plan for major flooding and overflow events or more immediate needs like responding quickly and effectively to Call-Before-You-Dig (CBYD) 811 calls for utility locate services or reporting unplanned events like accidental line breaks.  And like many communities, new construction and growth of residential homes and businesses alike requires proper planning for increased sewer flows as well as capital planning and budgeting for the addition of new sewer infrastructure.

Maps and Apps Make an Impact

The team has made steady progress over the years and today the ArcGIS system is serving the needs of a wide group of users.  A variety of web and mobile applications are used to monitor and maintain the health of the regional sewer system and integrated utility network.

Examples of these applications and the users supported include:

Emergency Repair viewer showing a failing pipe marked for emergency CIPP Lining.

“Documenting and communicating sewer system maintenance and inspection requirements and results is readily accomplished and coordinated among departments”.Dan Wolff, GNHWPCA Collections System Manager

Capital Planning Viewer highlighting a Clean Water Fund project in New Haven sponsored by CT DEEP.

Other tools that feed the central Geodatabase, capabilities, and connected, web-based map apps that support GNHWPCA decisions include:

Manhole inspection in the smart editor, configured to add inspection data through related tables tied to each manhole feature in the CMOM or Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance Application.

“Conducting engineering evaluations on pipe segments flagged by the collections department is streamlined by having both visual and up-to-date records data on the sewer system, its history and the service area in one central location”. — Isabella Schroeder, PE, GNHWPCA Senior Engineer

Pipes with roots observed to be infiltrating the main, and its treatment status, in the Sewer Main Inspection Application.

For each example provided above, Ceballos underscored tasks that once took hours or days can now be completed in less than an hour following the implementation of a centralized Geodatabase and the establishment of industry best practices for managing and maintaining the ArcGIS Enterprise system. “We are continuously finding new ways to streamline our business workflows and deliver easy-to-use decision support apps and tools for our stakeholders”, said Ceballos.

Continuing to grow the Impact of GIS

More recently and looking forward on the GNHWPCA roadmap, Ceballos and team have been exploring the use of Esri’s ArcGIS Network Management (EANM) capabilities.  They have converted their previous Geometric Network largely used to trace downstream impacts of planned or unplanned failures of the sewer system, to the latest ArcGIS Utility Network data model and analysis tools. A key area to gain value is integrating the new EANM capabilities with GNHWPCA’s customer information system (CIS) to take advantage of utility network traces that show impacted customers and trigger automated notifications to potentially impacted customers.  “This is especially important for notifying the facility operators responsible for hospitals, schools, and businesses as well as individual residents”, stated Ceballos.  Yates said, “Esri’s Utility Network Management tools are opening new options for both maintaining GNHWPCA’s expanding sewer infrastructure network as well as the tools needed to improve service to the GNHWPCA communities.”

In addition to the new analysis tools and system integrations currently being tested, the team is implementing new cartographic methods for symbolizing sewer infrastructure assets, so they provide a more realistic representation of what is happening underground.  This is especially true at manhole cover junctions where it’s important to better symbolize these junctions to reflect the real world where pipes meet the manhole wall (not the center of the manhole).

GNHWPCA is also planning to explore ArcGIS Indoors as a solution to map the detailed interior spaces of the Authority’s large pumping stations, and the wastewater treatment plant. The new ArcGIS Pro Flood Analysis tools being released with version 3.3 will also be reviewed.

“ArcGIS provides many opportunities to improve our planning and response for the GNHWPCA community and we are committed to continuous improvement of our services.”Sid Holbrook, GNHWPCA Executive Director

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About the author

Esri Water

Esri's Water Team focuses on all things water: water utilities (water distribution, wastewater, stormwater), water resources and everything in between. The team works with colleagues across Esri (solutions, professional services, product and more) to provide the best support for our customers and partners.


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