5 ways live water modeling helps you make better business decisions

ryanbrown ryanbrown January 3, 2022

5 min read

Utilities and municipalities make significant investments in their development and planning to better serve the residents of their communities. It’s no surprise that they value simplicity and reliability. They not only need to make sure people are safe and happy, they want to be able to optimize performance and increase productivity from their teams to achieve a positive return on their investment. Both goals are more easily achieved with a live water modeling system.  

Here are five ways live modeling can change the way you operate and make a significant difference in your day-to-day work.  

1. It helps you put community safety first  

When you adopt a live stormwater modeling system, you can better predict the future, giving both residents and emergency services advance warning about when and where flooding will likely occur. With a comprehensive model, you’ll be able to see which roads and routes should be avoided and identify which areas run the risk of being isolated or might need to be completely evacuated if flooding is imminent.  

The danger isn’t just about floodwaters breaching homes. It can be devastating to the entire community’s health when flooding overwhelms wastewater collection systems. Naturally, you want to do everything in your power to prevent raw sewage from entering waterways, and a live model can help you quickly identify which Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO) or Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) are at risk. Once you know, you can send crews to do the work of diversion, with all the information they need to plan the work safely and securely – and prevent themselves or their equipment from being overwhelmed by floodwaters.  

Models can help explain water issues to your community while also providing mitigation plans they can believe in

2. It alerts you to imminent problems – beforehand 

When you can view live data directly on top of your model results, you gain valuable high-level insight. Simply put, you can see the difference between what should be happening in your system versus what is actually happening. Assuming your model is relatively well-calibrated, whenever you see a deviation between the modeling result and the physical measurement, you know it’s time to investigate. 

It could be that blockages are beginning to form. For a wastewater collection system, blockages usually arise from FOGs – Fats, Oils, and Grease – which combine with non-biodegradable solids to eventually form giant “fatbergs”. These can be not just gross to deal with but expensive and time-consuming to remove.  

Stormwater systems aren’t exempt from this kind of danger. Sediment, leaves, debris, branches, logs, and even stumps can gum up the works. As you might imagine, being able to spot these early on is key – it’s a huge benefit of using a live modeling system.   

But discrepancies come in different forms. Seeing less capacity could also indicate that part of a pipe is beginning to collapse. That said, a deviation won’t always equate to an emergency situation. It may simply mean that a sensor is beginning to fail and needs to be replaced or repaired. 

Live models can use observed events and weather forecasts to precisely predict urban or river catchment behavior.

3. It makes planning work easier (and safer) 

Given the changing boundary conditions that can occur over the course of a week, having a live model can be incredibly helpful to those tasked with planning field crews’ days. When you have a week of forecasting data in front of you, you can send workers to areas where it makes sense for that day’s priorities rather than assigning a task in unworkable conditions or without the necessary equipment.  

For example, if repair work is needed on a portion of your system, you can use live modeling data to schedule repairs when flows are at a minimum. This can be taken a step further with forecasts performed on a shorter time horizon, alerting crews to incoming increased flows so they can evacuate the team, along with all of their equipment.  

4. It becomes easier to meet your requirements  

With a changing climate, stricter water quality requirements, and rising land prices, we’re often faced with the challenge of doing more with less. Technologies like smart ponds and real-time controls can help. They’re becoming more mainstream for stormwater management, helping ensure that flood management is maintained in the face of unforeseen conditions. When used in conjunction with a live modeling system, operation teams can easily modify how stormwater is managed within the system to balance the needs of flood management with smaller footprint designs or help to meet water quality goals.    

Similarly, operations can improve with a wastewater collection system model. When boundary conditions change, a live modeling system can alert you to take quick action. For example, if your model foresees a significant rainfall event, you can use that knowledge to change your pumping schedules and proactively increase storage in a wetwell to avoid a sewer overflow. This is the kind of project the Eastney Wastewater Pumping Station in the UK needed to tackle with the help of ICMLive. Without this ability to be proactive, you might find yourself reacting to a situation where you can’t pump water out fast enough and suffer a CSO or SSO.  

5. You’ll be in a position to make even better business decisions going forward 

Organizations spend a lot of time, effort, and money building and calibrating watershed and collection system master plans, often revising them every 4-5 years. But be aware that the longer your model goes without being updated or re-calibrated, the less reliable it becomes. This can ultimately lead to distrust in the modeling results.  

With a live modeling system, it’s crucial to frequently update your models. As conditions change and new businesses or housing developments are added to your system, you’ll have a more complete understanding of the deficiencies in your system and will be able to make better decisions about how to prioritize capital improvement projects – annually instead of every five years.  

When you have a physics-based live modeling system operating with live data, you gain increased efficiencies in your day-to-day work:  

If live modeling is something you want to take advantage of, Infoworks ICM and ICM Live can help you integrate with hydraulic models, SCADA historians, and weather forecast databases, providing you with an accurate view of network performance to alert your team about adverse events.  It can also help make your modeling more efficient.

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