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TasWater hones in on data to recover non-revenue water

TasWater is set to enter the next phase of its network efficiency journey following its partnership with global leader in analytics software TaKaDu. The utility expects to retrieve billions of litres of non-revenue water – a boon for customer’s bills, and water security on the island state.

TaKaDu’s analytics software is designed to identify hidden leaks in the water network using statistical algorithms and machine learning to detect anomalies, analyse data and apply network-based predictions.

TasWater General Manager Asset Management Services Matt Derbyshire said it’s an exciting time for the utility, and the partnership heralds a new data-driven phase for the 10-year-old business, with a strong focus on network performance.

“Compared to our peers, our performance in network efficiency has been lower than that of utilities of a similar size. But, we are a relatively young utility and our initial focus was to improve drinking water quality for our regional communities, mediate unsafe dams and improve sewage compliance,” he said.

“Now that those aims are well advanced, it’s time to start to lift the performance of our network assets.

“Water is a precious resource here in Tasmania. We have a reputation for being a pretty wet state, but certain areas such as the east coast can experience drought conditions.

“We need to make sure we’re being careful custodians of that precious resource.”

Data-driven insights

Derbyshire said the new software will be implemented over the next six to eight weeks, and that TaKaDu’s central event management (CEM) will allow TasWater to soon start detecting and managing network events with minimal setup.

“TaKaDu is being utilised in many countries across the globe, and we’ve seen some great outcomes from other water utilities around the world that have used TaKaDu, many with a similar context to TasWater,” he said.

“TaKaDu is a tried and tested product, but one of the great benefits is how quickly we can achieve implementation.”

Successful implementation of the software will provide coverage of up to 3000 km of TasWater’s water mains within the first 12 months, detection and life-cycle management of network events and incidents, and high-level visibility of district metered areas (DMA) and network zones, including water loss information.

“It’s not just about measuring non-revenue water, it’s also about being able to know when a flow meter has gone offline, for example, which allows us to dispatch a crew to investigate and correct the issue,” Derbyshire said.

“The software will be recording water usage within DMAs, comparing that data over time to look for any changes that could indicate that leakage is occurring.

“Whether it’s leaks, bursts, faulty assets, operational failures, telemetry problems or data issues – we’ll soon have very high visibility of all of these issues, as well as actionable insights.”

Growing benefits

Derbyshire said the software has been installed, but will be expanded across the utility’s network over the next 12 months.

“We've currently got 10 DMAs. That’s a small number, but we intend to grow that number over the next 12 months to around 200 DMAs across the state. And that should be about 95% of our network,” he said.

“When it comes to the water savings we expect to see, we’re talking about billions of litres of water.

“Leaks can go undetected under the surface for years. Therefore, non-revenue water volume gets very big, very quickly. We produce approximately 86 GL of water annually. So it only takes a small percentage of non-revenue water savings to equate to a large amount of water.”

Derbyshire said the amount TasWater expects to save in non-revenue water is so large that it will have a considerable influence on water security, but will also help TasWater ensure it is keeping its customers' bills as low as possible.

“When it comes down to it, treating and supplying large volumes of water costs money. There’s the cost of electricity and chemicals. The less water we need to treat and pump to customers, the lower their bills will be,” he said.

“This is all about shifting our mindset to being a proactive asset manager, rather than a reactive asset manager. It’s about moving to a highly-efficient utilisation of our resources and improving customer satisfaction through demonstrating that we are effectively managing a precious resource.”

Efficiency evolution

With TasWater moving further towards digitalisation, Derbyshire said the utility’s network efficiency focus is one more step in its evolution towards becoming a world-class utility in the long-term.

“We are investing in digitisation on many fronts here at TasWater. And our work with TaKaDu is one of many initiatives that we're embarking on,” he said.

“This is really the next step in our maturity, which will be heavily focused on data so that we can better manage our assets. Ten years isn’t a long time to be in operation as a water utility, but we are moving towards our long-term aim, which is to provide excellent service to our customers, and to do it sustainably.”

Derbyshire said he is looking forward to sharing some of the wins that TasWater achieves through the software over the next year.

“I’m looking forward to being able to share exactly how much water we save when we have all of our DMAs in place,” he said.

“But I’m also very excited to see how some of the other benefits stack up, too. There are certainly some benefits that we expect to see, which underpinned the investment decision for embarking on this transformation.

“Making these types of network-wide improvements can certainly create a very positive flow-on effect, particularly in relation to the increased maturity of operations. I’m excited to see what happens.”

TaKaDu Founder and CEO Amir Peleg said the company is also very excited to be working with TasWater and helping the utility achieve its goals.

“TaKaDu is excited to partner with TasWater in its digital journey, leveraging on data, smart meters, and sophisticated analytics to bring a higher level of visibility to the operational teams,” he said.

“Being present in the Australian market for a decade, we can see the huge impact of our CEM on customer service, operational efficiency, and reduced water loss.”