Urban city saves millions on valve and hydrant assessment

Wachs Water Services – Valve Restoration from Pure Technologies on Vimeo.

For large urban cities, one of the quickest ways to realize an investment return from their network of underground assets is to inventory the water distribution system and assess the overall condition of valves and fire hydrants.

This progressive major southeast U.S. city recognized the value of getting a comprehensive handle on the condition and usability of its aging control assets. The city, which operates a complex water network for nearly one million customers, recently completed a long-term asset management program for its valves and hydrants.

Wachs Water Services, in a joint venture with Brindley Pieters & Associates (WWS-BPA Joint Venture), recently completed the latest phase of this city’s Asset Assessment Program, providing the city with an immediate return on investment by maximizing usability of control assets. The water distribution system consists of approximately 59,000 valves and 24,000 fire hydrants.

Open Hydrant with water flowing

The program also ensured future savings through the development of a geographic information system (GIS) database that contains necessary water system transmission and distribution assets records and global positioning system (GIS) locations to meet water utility asset management and maintenance requirements. The program is projected to save the city a minimum of $77 million over the next ten years.

Estimated $77 million savings from increased control and enhanced management

The $77 million in savings, resulting from the increased control and enhanced management, will be realized even if the city makes no further investments in their system.  This represents three dollars ROI for every dollar invested.  With continued preventative maintenance and further enhancements to their GIS data program, the city could potentially save an additional $65 million over the same 10 year period.

“Every dollar that the utility has invested into this program delivers three dollars of tangible savings from quantifiable system operability improvements and consistent control…”

“Managing an aging water network requires a results-driven approach that achieves both immediate system improvements and long-term sustainability. Every dollar that the utility has invested into this program delivers three dollars of tangible savings from quantifiable system operability improvements and consistent control,” summarized Cliff Wilson, President of Wachs Water Services.

The Valve and Hydrant Asset Assessment Program met two objectives.  The first restored maximum usability to the distribution system, providing immediate system improvements.  The second developed a comprehensive and accurate GIS database, ensuring long-term sustainability.
Valve and Hydrant Asset Assessment

Good news: 95 percent of valves could be located, accessed, and operated within 15 minutes

WWS-BPA evaluated and digitized 82,412 total assets (59,020 valves and 23,392 hydrants).   This process revealed that the city had an initial valve usability of only 27.9 percent.  This low level of control asset usability drastically increased response time and the impact footprint, increasing disruption to customers, increasing traffic rerouting and delays, and increasing collateral damage.   Low usability increases overall costs.

The team rehabilitated over 50,000 assets, including 43,000 valves, most during the initial field assessment.   By the end of the program, 95 percent of valves could be located, accessed, and operated within 15 minutes.

Maximizing usability minimizes costs

City residents and utility crews immediately recognized the benefits.  Field teams can identify and locate assets quickly.  Traffic delays are avoided.  Insurance claims for residents and businesses decreased.   Pre-planned construction shutdowns are more efficient.

To develop the comprehensive GIS database, the WWS-BPA team collected and digitized more than 60 attributes per valve, and over 40 attributes per hydrant, including sub-meter GPS position.  The team digitized 3000 miles of the distribution network, connecting all the assets into an accurate, accessible, and maintainable information system.  The city’s operational crews now have an accurate picture of the system, with exact locations for the control assets along with their usability.  This information is used not only to respond to emergencies, but to manage and maintain the system’s high level of control.

Wachs Water Services is proud to be a part of this project that has set industry standards for large urban cities and demonstrated that efficiencies can be increased through restoration and information rather than replacement.