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Pioneer Valley Water shifts towards smarter irrigation

Faced with end-of-life control systems and the challenge of overseeing a complex water ordering process with a small team, Pioneer Valley Water has embarked on a journey of renewal and innovation to improve water efficiency and customer engagement.

It may be surprising, but most irrigation water schemes in Australia are still dependant on voice response phone systems to receive, manage and execute their customer’s order for water delivery.

Pioneer Valley Water Co-Operative (PVW) is a not-for-profit irrigation water distribution operator in the Mackay Region. The scheme comprises large raw water pump stations and balancing stations, offtakes, pipelines and open channels to service almost 400 customers.

Faced with the challenges of an expensive and obsolete demand management system that fell short of their own requirements and those of their customers, PVW embarked upon a journey to bring its infrastructure, demand management and customer engagement into the 21st century.

The first part of this journey was to engage Logicamms via an open tender process to upgrade their SCADA control system from what was previously a proprietary, licensed system to one that was open, more resilient and supportable. This open system can be maintained by any number of partners with a strong presence in the region, thereby removing the risk associated with dealing with a single vendor from outside of the state.

The second piece of the puzzle warranted a fresh, innovative look at the entire customer management and water ordering business process, with the goal improve a customer’s capacity to visualise and manage their water orders without needing to use an inflexible voice response system.

This resulted in a partnership with Tyeware, a Mackay-based software development company with 10 years’ experience in the water industry having led the development for the internationally recognized smart water metering MiWater and MyH2O systems for Mackay Regional Council.

Tyeware has created a new commercial cloud-based solution, named “Telemex Smart Irrigation”, which will allow a customer to directly visualise and control their water ordering requirements from their web browser. The utility can then oversee and moderate those orders in alignment with other network capacity, announced allocations and maintenance periods.

This solution will mean that PVW operators no longer need to log into their control system in the middle of the night to change programming, because the new system will directly integrate a customer’s water orders into the SCADA control system to determine pump flows, delivery offsets and manage network capacity rules.

The Telemex Smart Irrigation system is currently being field tested by PVW customers and is planned to be formally released for all water customers in mid-June 2021. The product will be commecially available to other Australian water utilities thereafter.

This project overall has already seen a reduction in the demands placed on key personnel to directly control water releases, as well as giving irrigation and other water customers greater visibility and control over the water they use, perhaps in response to changes to their operations or weather forecasts.

A free mobile application is also in development to be released in the third quarter of 2021, allowing water customers to be able to directly control their water orders from the paddock to the park and the product will expand to incorporate smart water metering in Q4 to assist gcustomers to visualise and manage their water consumption as they use it.

Author: Steven Tye, Director of Tyeware, Mackay QLD