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This regional NSW town is leading a water quality information revolution

Improving water security has a long history in the New South Wales (NSW) country town of Bathurst, and it was here that the first NSW regional piped town-water supply started flowing in 1886.  

Today, Bathurst Regional Council (BRC) is responsible for urban water management for 43,000 residents. As with many regional areas, BRC faces significant water supply challenges, including drought and algal blooms. BRC is constantly evaluating how it can continue to deliver a safe, secure water supply for its customers.

Effective water quality risk management relies heavily on monitoring and collation of data, with numerous parameters and high data volumes requiring storage, processing, review and interpretation. 

With so much at stake, BRC wanted to better leverage its water quality data. BRC had long been using SCADA as a vehicle for data collation and process control, but felt it needed increased ‘eyes’ on the process results, as well as help to go beyond the monumental amounts of collected data, to information generation and ultimately, prediction. 

Reduced access to the water treatment plant due to remote working necessitated by COVID-19 also created an element of ‘flying blind’ for process oversight. As a first priority, BRC wanted to target how it reviewed and managed its critical control points (CCPs), as these are fundamental to meeting its statutory public health obligations and customer value for money obligations (cost of production efficiency). 

BRC’s Water Quality team members wanted something that would generate meaningful information from their water quality data, did not burden staff, would provide an extra level of process oversight, help them understand if CCPs were in control, and was readily accessible when key staff members were not on duty. 

The team chose to implement CCP Watch®, a specialist information product developed by Australian water quality risk management and information company D2K Information. One of a family of water quality intelligence modules within the Information Engine suite, CCP Watch is specifically designed for CCP oversight, reporting and prediction.  

The tool incorporates statistical analysis and presentation of exception data (target, alert and critical) in a ‘water quality accounting’, visually appealing format.

The CCP Watch outputs are accessible to all levels, from ‘corporate to coalface’, meaning anyone in the management chain can digest and readily understand the information. ‘Traffic light’ colours are supplemented with symbols to ensure accessibility of information for those with colour-blindness.

Before implementing CCP Watch, BRC performed its weekly CCP reviews by manual interrogation and review of SCADA results and trends. The preparation of reports and the review process required significant amounts of Water Quality Compliance Officer Caro Wiggins’ time, leaving her to shoehorn her other duties into the time left over. 

Wiggins said she now finds that she can scan CCPs less intensively before looking in more detail where there is a noted exception. 

“The CCP logs help me to see exactly where the exceptions are, allowing me to confirm against the exact SCADA trace for that period,” she said. 

“CCP Watch gives us an instant look at the current CCP status. This is something we haven't had in the past and is a useful monitoring tool.” 

CCP Watch has allowed BRC Manager – Water and Waste Russell Deans to ‘see’ CCP performance, even while remote from the plant. Device and web app CCP Watch® login and user-set alerts keep Deans informed, so he doesn’t just rely on SCADA; he now has many levels of public health assurance in place. 

It has also delivered benefits to Water Filtration Plant Supervisor Dave Cashen, who said it helps keep customers safe.

“Scrutiny of the CCP exception results from CCP Watch, with support from D2K Information’s water quality experts, has helped us better focus on CCP performance, helped us identify monitoring point improvements and provided usable information for our regular water quality meetings,” Cashen said.

By embracing the implementation of new water quality information tools, BRC continues to improve on delivery of its drinking water and customer service obligations, quietly leading a water quality information revolution.