Saving Money, Facing Consent Decrees Is Easy With SmartCover Technology

The San Antonio Water System was facing an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consent decree with an estimated cost of $1 billion. SAWS adopted the EPA’s Capacity, Management, Operations & Maintenance guidelines. An important part of its CMOM program was the institution of high-frequency cleaning for its 110,000 manholes and pipeline segments. 

Effectively, this meant SAWS established a program of cleaning high-risk pipes with potential for overflows, and instituted routine cleanings at monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, semiannual and annual frequencies. As conscientious sewer operators, SAWS identified 200 high-risk sites for regular monthly cleanings — whether these pipes needed cleaning or not.

SAWS was anticipating over 2,400 annual monthly cleanings to prevent sanitary sewer overflows. After extensive review, SAWS deployed SmartCover at its high-frequency cleaning sites to gain insight and started cleaning as needed rather than cleaning just in case.

Major reduction in cleaning

Since deploying SmartCover, 65 cleanings have been identified and performed at locations where previously nearly 1,300 cleanings were scheduled. SAWS has experienced a 95% reduction in cleaning and zero SSO incidents after 216 SSO saves for an estimated $1 million in savings, according to SAWS.

The results have not only lowered cleaning costs while preventing SSOs, SAWS has deployed a smart infrastructure solution that has fast payoff and excellent return on investment, solves old problems with new technology, extends underground asset lifetime, eases stress on staff, creates staff availability for other tasks, lowers pressure on user rates and significantly decreases operational liabilities.

It took some time to earn the trust of the cleaning crews and staff, according to a city spokesperson, but over time, SmartCover allowed SAWS workers to see the difference.

Manhole diagnostics

For example, there was one location issuing alarms multiple times a day. The combo operators couldn’t believe a 115-inch deep manhole could surcharge and recede in such a short amount of time. Every time the unit would issue an alarm, a combo operator would check the manhole only to find the level had lowered back down to a normal flow. 

SmartCover dispatched a customer support field technician to monitor on site during a surcharge to document the measured rise and fall of levels. After analyzing the SmartCover data, a pattern analysis indicated there was blockage downstream. A cleaning crew video inspected the line and found a severe obstruction from debris and grease accumulation three manholes down from the location with the surcharge activity.

Through a site inspection it was determined that this line serves dozens of homes in the neighborhood and SAWS was able to prevent any spill contamination of this nearby community.

SAWS effectively transitioned from a routine, calendar-based cleaning system to a data-driven cleaning program to properly respond to the current actual operating condition of the collections system. The fact that SAWS is embracing smart technology, trusting the data, and benefiting from an optimized cleaning schedule has led to significant positive benefits for the operator, the environment and the communities served by SAWS. 

Not only is SmartCover effectively reducing wear and tear on pipelines from the routine cleaning, it’s also allowing SAWS to refocus resources — time, labor and money — on other activities.


SmartCover technology monitors sewer pipes and transmits real-time data analysis via military-grade satellite communications to alert sewer operators exactly where and when to clean.

760-291-1980 | sales@smartcoversytems.com www.smartcoversystems.com


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