Baltimore region assesses water distribution assets

City of Baltimore

Over the past decade, the City of Baltimore has seen vast improvements in control point operability and system sustainability of its water distribution assets. The report card is looking better each year.

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works shoulders a big responsibility. The Department provides 265 million gallons of water daily to 1.8 million people in the greater Baltimore region, and maintains 3,400 miles of water mains, 19,000 fire hydrants and more than 64,000 pipeline valves.

For more than ten years, Wachs Water Services has partnered with Baltimore and surrounding counties to deliver GIS data, coax non-functioning valves and hydrants back to operational life and reduce the probability of failure. The ongoing program is a showcase for Wachs Water Services to demonstrate how its unique approach, field experience and mechanical advantage could give Baltimore new confidence in managing their water distribution assets.

Broken water mains propel utility to investigate distribution system

Many of Baltimore’s water distribution system assets are decades old, with some pipes dating back 100 years and more. Since 2000, large-diameter pipeline failures were occurring more frequently, resulting in extreme flooding in some urban areas. Emergency response was often delayed because of difficult to locate or non-operational valves.

The water utility decided it was time to locate, assess and repair or replace the critical pipeline valves within their distribution system. They turned to the industry leader in valve management solutions, Wachs Water Services, a division of Pure Technologies.

WachsWater Workers

Valve management delivers operational intelligence to mitigate risk

Collaborating closely with field crews from Baltimore Public Works, Wachs Water Services technicians immediately went to work to locate and test the thousands of pipeline valves and water assets within the distribution system.

Valve management involves integrating field-verified valve status details into the GIS system, the vital “operational intelligence” utilities need in mitigating operational risk, and accelerating emergency response to major pipeline failures.

After physically locating each valve, Wachs Water Services field technicians recorded the valves’ precise GPS position, operational and service history, and current functional status into Baltimore GIS (geographical information systems) and CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems), ensuring the vital asset information could be easily accessed during an emergency response.

Damaged or questionable valves were expertly serviced, replaced or updated to verify compliance with industry specifications, and Baltimore field crews were trained to deal with operating valves to respond to an array of emergency situations.

Damaged valve

Valve training pays dividends sooner than expected

The emergency valve training paid dividends much sooner than expected. In September 2009, a 72-inch PCCP water main suffered a catastrophic failure near a busy Baltimore street intersection, flooding the area with 175,000 gallons per minute. Field crews from Baltimore Public Works, Wachs Water Services and emergency service workers converged on the scene as water submerged residential areas and threatened 6,000 homes.

Working closely with Baltimore Public Works, Wachs Water Services provided detailed maps and plans for shutting down the broken pipeline main, including information on all valves involved, and the specific pattern to execute the shutdown in a manageable way.

The utility knew exactly what crews to deploy, where to deploy them, and what they needed when they arrived on location, successfully shutting down all pipelines feeding the ruptured main in a fraction of the time.

Baltimore proves its commitment to municipal water stewardship

Tremendous progress has been made by Baltimore City and surrounding counties, and they have set industry benchmarks for control point operability and system sustainability. In the ongoing program, more than 64,000 valves and 22,000 fire hydrants have been GPS-located and mapped over more than 2,000 miles of mains.

The City has earned high marks, not only for its diligence, but also for its commitment to municipal water stewardship.

Tech analysing data

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