The Future of Water and Wastewater

Improvements are evident as utilities upgrade the tools and technology of their trade.

Technology and innovation pushes everything forward, from entertainment to manufacturing to water and wastewater utility operations.

The three utilities profiled in this issue of Municipal Sewer & Water exemplify that fact. The city of Aurora (Colorado) Water Operations department made the decision a few years back to get a better handle on its infrastructure. It had already adopted CCTV inspection and pipe rehabilitation programs, but that wasn’t enough.

The department’s newly established principal engineer position was tasked with creating and implementing a comprehensive asset management program incorporating data systematically collected by the city during previous decades. That included development of an organizationwide strategic plan and a specific strategy to systematically inspect the community’s wastewater lines, and using that information to prioritize interceptor relining work.

The city has now prioritized projects and has plans to line a significant amount of its highest-priority pipes over the next five years. By all accounts, the asset management initiative has gotten off to a very successful start.

The Fond du Lac (Wisconsin) Water Utility has also embraced technology in its quest to improve service and operations. While the utility is more than 130 years old with some of the original distribution system still in service, it is using technologies like GIS mapping and automated systems to carry it well into the future.

Fond du Lac recently built the first GIS map of its entire system using old historical records. The utility had asset data stored in a filing cabinet but no way to visualize it. So, team members worked to recreate all that data by digitizing and interpreting historic construction plans to create a map that’s accessible on fieldworkers’ smartphones and tablets. The system has already helped locate shut-off valves quickly on water main breaks and dictate replacement schedules for problem pipes.

The utility has also installed advanced metering infrastructure, providing instantaneous water consumption reports from all the system’s customers, and is working to integrate AMI, SCADA, and GIS systems.

Pima County, Arizona, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, put different technology to work in the city of Tucson. An initial flood diversion project quickly grew into a massive stormwater collection/distribution system that encompasses 155 acres while providing flood control, wildlife habitat, and a new recreation area, all at a savings to taxpayers.

High in the sky above all these communities, another remarkable form of technology is at work. Utilis, a company founded in 2013, is using analysis of images captured by a satellite-mounted radar system and sensor to detect leaks in water distribution and transmission networks. The company says its method, used in tandem with traditional acoustic devices, can triple leak detection efficiency. The system can pinpoint as many as hundreds of possible leaks in a single project, and it can be much more time- and cost-effective than traditional leak detection methods.

It’s a remarkable tool and a far cry from digging up pipe to try to find a leak. All of the technology in these stories is remarkable, and it highlights how far the water and wastewater industry has come in recent years.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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