Water Innovation

Introducing our Clients: Carson City and South Bend

By: Sabrina Strauss, Office Manager

Xylem-Digital Solutions kicked off Hidden Revenue Locator projects with a number of new clients in 2019. Two of the recent deployments include  City of Carson City and the City of South Bend. We will introduce both of these innovative utilities in this post. 

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Introducing Carson City Water Division

Carson City is located in an arid region of Northern Nevada. Carson City’s water distribution system consists of 250 miles of water mains, 4,200 fire hydrants, 32 groundwater wells, 15 storage tanks, and 16 pressure zones, according to the local Water Division. “The distribution division maintains the system’s water mains, valves and hydrants, and the City's portion of the service line, [...] including the water meter.” Carson City’s Water Division oversees the city’s water production, distribution and metering, as well as maintaining the fire hydrants and infrastructure. 

The city’s overall goal in working with Xylem is to locate revenue deficiency across its commercial and industrial meter fleet. In addition, Xylem  will help the city with meter asset management through data driven insights and recommendations specifically on the systematic replacement of its under-performing meters. Furthermore, another goal is to also determine the potential missing revenue from each of the under-performing meters, which is estimated to be worth 1% of Carson City's 2017 water and sewer gross operating revenue.

The Xylem’s Revenue Assurance group recommended their award-winning solution Hidden Revenue Locator (HRL) to Carson City to use to work towards these goals of the Water Division. HRL is a tool which delivers improved predictions for utility meter issue identification through utility gathered data and as ongoing and automated  data integration which is easy to scale across multiple meters. The HRL optimizes operational workflows for the City due to its easy to access online platform and ongoing, regular reports for prioritizing field activities, as well as helping with meter asset management. 

Xylem also provides program guidance and insights on total revenue and volume gains, which will be delivered by the Revenue Assurance team throughout a 12-month long program, with a dataset of 1,700 meters, and including a pre/post revenue impact report. The dashboard for this project will be launched in Fall 2019. 

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Introducing South Bend Water Works

Located in southern Indiana, South Bend Water Works ‘solely utilizes groundwater to serve more than 112,000 customers. There are nine well fields which can produce water to be treated before making its way to homes and businesses via 550+ miles of water main’. 

The City’s goal is it to gain a better understanding of the performance of its water meters using a performance-based approach. For this purpose, identifying and addressing water and revenue loss at and behind the customer meter, and closely tracking each meters’ revenue impact, is necessary. Furthermore, the City plans to use the Hidden Revenue Locator to better understand where its system water losses are coming from by better estimating its apparent water losses. Currently, the City has a regular replacement program for all of its meters and by using HRL, the goal is instead to focus these replacements on only meters with issues which will save both time and effort while also recovering revenue in the future. 

Similar to the Carson City project, South Bend is planning to use the Hidden Revenue Locator to achieve their goals. South Bend will receive a one-time, Hidden Revenue Locator report of meter issues for 10,000 manual and AMR meters. Xylem’s San Francisco team will conduct  a one-time data integration and analysis for all provided data back to 2013. The dashboard is targeted to launch in November 2019.


Cyber Security and the 4th Annual Water Data Summit: 5 Takeaways on Open Water Data

By: Victor Miao, Software Engineer

Water’s greatest minds coalesced from all over the world at the 4th Annual Water Data Summit on August 22 and 23, at the University of California, Davis. Hosted by the California Data Collaborative, water experts from all sectors gathered to discuss and collaborate on water data. With one of the main themes being California’s AB 1755 (the Open and Transparent Water Data Act), speakers addressed the current state of water data and its challenges. Here are some of the main takeaways.

Summit panelists discuss economic impacts of irrigation reduction

Summit panelists discuss economic impacts of irrigation reduction

Open Data

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Citizenville describes one example outcome of open data: the efforts of a single programmer mapping public police data directly led to reform and behavioral changes. Similarly, one speaker cited public road data as the initial spark for Google Map. Hoping to invoke similar ingenuity, many water experts believe that open water data will empower people to make better-informed decisions regarding sustainable water management.

Jesper Elkjær Christensen, Senior Advisor of the Water Technology Alliance of the Consulate General of Denmark, presented an enlightening case study on the benefits of open water data in Denmark. Public, private, and academic organizations have long collaborated on public groundwater data, mapping groundwater since 1999 and creating other tools to help guide important water decisions. Jesper’s conclusion from Denmark’s success: “make water data useful, public, standardized, and collaborative”.

Denmark’s publicly available and interactive groundwater maps

Denmark’s publicly available and interactive groundwater maps

Establish Trust (in the Internet of Water)

The Internet of Water (IoW) is a project started at Duke University, designed to enable open water data to help guide sustainable water management. One example goal depicted the ability to look up local water quality on Google. According to IoW’s co-founder and panelist Martin Doyle, most of the breakthrough water technology already exists in AMI and improved water sensors. However, the issue remains in spreading these technologies as the industry standard. Many organizations still maintain legacy infrastructure and data.

On the same IoW panel and from a different perspective, Deven Upadhyay represented the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. He discussed his vision of publicly accessible and trusted water data for every locale. However, he cited trust and cyber security as the most important challenges for an open data platform. Cyber security, as another main summit topic, is covered in more detail in the section below.

No Utility Left Behind

One recurring issue of the conference addressed small water utilities that would not be able to comply with proposed open water data policies, much less be well-equipped to protect their data against cyber attacks. Hoping to address such issues, the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series convened in 2017, acting as a neutral space. The Dialogue gathered a diverse group including public and private sectors, water experts, and academics to discuss national policy, water data, and sustainable water management. Accordingly, IoW aims only for voluntary participants in producing open data, instead of focusing on influencing public policy on open data.

Water Data Needs Work

“Water and data have not been married for long,'' stated one presenter. It is a fledgling field that necessitates adopting present and newly available technology to be robust, secure, and useful. Surprisingly, 2019 is the first year that all California water utilities were able to provide aggregate monthly water usage, and only as a direct result of an emergency measure due California’s 2011-2017 drought. 

Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the California State Water Board, presented similar findings on the state-level. Citing both his current position and his previous position as Director of Information and Technology under California Senator Barbara Boxer, he acknowledged that while California is progressive, its data infrastructure still needs much work.

Open Data Works

As open data helped empower everyday people to innovate, open source tools and software aim to do similar good. The California Data Collaborative hosts a plethora of open source tools and software on their GitHub, such as an evapotranspiration estimator, real-time snow water estimator, and real-time reservoir visualization.

Similarly, many other organizations presented open source projects or research on open data:

  • Sacramento State’s open source tool for mapping groundwater quality, designed to help water managers identify disadvantaged communities with contaminated groundwater

  • One Stanford University PhD candidate’s research on Google search trends appears to show a correlation between media coverage of the 2011-2017 California drought and state-wide voluntary water usage reduction. Mandatory water restrictions seemed to correlate less with water conservation.

  • University of California, Irvine presented a disturbing recent trend of increasingly unsafe water in rural and low-income areas, especially in Oklahoma and Texas. In 2015, 9% of water systems in 2015 violating the Safe Water Act and affecting 21 million people.

  • FlowWest showcased their open source software such as a salmon life cycle model, supporting the efforts of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act to protect fish and wildlife.

Cyber Security

Online privacy and security have become increasingly important topics in more recent years, and for good reason. Data breaches and ransomware seem to occur far too often. However, the rising public awareness should hold agencies more accountable for our private and sensitive data. Indeed, cyber security cemented itself as a keystone topic at the 4th Annual Water Data Summit as well. This year, speakers at the summit helped us better understand the full stack of data security.

Your data is in good hands…

Despite, or perhaps because of, the recent prevalence and awareness of data breaches, many organizations have been actively preparing for and defending against the worst. Listed here are a few cyber security best-practices brought up during the summit.

Cyber Security panel. Pictured (L-R): William Johnson, David Wegman, Rocky Smith

Cyber Security panel. Pictured (L-R): William Johnson, David Wegman, Rocky Smith


William Johnson, Information System Division Manager at East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), outlined their best practices as a business-to-consumer entity that uses consumer data:

  • Defend against infiltration: EBMUD regularly performs penetration assessments both internally as well as through third party auditors, in order to find and fortify any weak points.

  • Defend against exfiltration: employees must abide by clear protocols (e.g. no sending cleartext via email, correctly storing and transferring data, etc.) and participate in random phishing tests that automatically enroll them into anti-phishing programs if they fail.

  • Cloud security: EBMUD employs a cloud-first approach, knowing that Amazon and other cloud providers often employ the best specialist teams in cyber security that other organizations generally cannot match with on-site solutions.

David Wegman, our very own CTO at Valor Water Analytics (a Xylem brand), presented Valor’s guidelines as a business-to-business agency that receives data from other businesses:

  • Minimize data: sometimes, clients send Valor extraneous data and personally identifiable information that we do not want nor ask for. Valor does not store this data, so that there is no possibility of such sensitive information leaking.

  • Grant as little access as necessary: users are only given access to what they need, and in the form of temporary access tokens that expire shortly afterwards. This reduces the damage of a potential breach by forcibly limiting its duration.

  • Layering approach: in addition to minimizing data, blocking unwanted visitors with a firewall, and granting only temporary access, Valor encrypts sensitive data so that it cannot be traced back to its origins. This layered security addresses the worst case scenario, lessening the impact of any stage of a potential breach.

  • Cloud security: Valor shares EBMUD’s sentiments on the cloud, understanding that an on-site solution would likely be less secure and more difficult to maintain.

Rocky Smith, Business Solutions Architect at Cisco, and Internet of Things (IoT) expert, stated, “You have not been attacked yet, are being attacked, or in the aftermath of an attack”. With this mindset, Cisco prepares for every scenario, designing the best possible outcome.

  • Establish perimeters everywhere: extend firewalls and permissions barriers frequently - even between internal tools, to mitigate potential breaches.

  • Minimize data: even if IoT or other connected devices are compromised, they should not have any sensitive data to leak, only anonymous or useless strings of numbers.

  • Properly back up data: ransomware only has leverage against an organization when, by definition, they hold hostage something valuable. With proper backups, an agency protects itself by being able to recover their valuable data without the need to comply with a malicious entity’s demands.

...as long as it is prioritized

Given these industry-standard practices, one might ask “why are there breaches at all?”. Frankly, organizations need to understand and prioritize security in the first place to even have these measures in place. Instead, some organizations may be far too small, too large and slow-moving, or simply unaware of security threats. Fortunately for everyone, we do have some brilliant individuals and unbiased organizations hoping to tackle some of these issues.

Related Links

California Data Collaborative

http://californiadatacollaborative.org/

https://github.com/California-Data-Collaborative

Internet of Water

https://internetofwater.org/

Aspen Dialogue on Sustainable Water Infrastructure

https://www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/energy-and-environment-program-3/water/

Denmark’s Groundwater Maps and Data

https://eng.geus.dk/products-services-facilities/data-and-maps/groundwater-maps-and-data/ 

Sacramento State - California Groundwater Contamination Risk Index

https://www.owp.csus.edu/grid/

FlowWest

http://www.flowwest.com/

https://github.com/FlowWest


Large Meter Testing: Where are utilities today? AWWA CA-NV Meter Committee Workshop; August 20, 2019

By: Kristine Gali, Technical Program Manager, and Heidi Smith, Global Product Manager

The American Water Works Association nonprofit was founded in 1881 with a focus on providing education and training opportunities for drinking water professionals. Since its inception, the association has grown to roughly 50,000 members, multiple sections across the US, and multiple committee’s within each section. The California-Nevada Section of AWWA held its Summer Meeting and Workshop on August 20, 2019 with a focus on large meter testing, the importance of regular testing, methods of conducting field and bench tests, and a panel on how to develop a testing program.

 With emerging water regulations across the US, utilities are becoming increasingly focused on annual water audits. Even more importantly, utilities are focusing on how to gather sufficient data to most accurately complete these water audits. The water that enters the water distribution system should equal the amount of water either consumed, lost, or exported. On the other hand, without accurate metering, it is impossible to confirm how much water is associated with each of these variables of the equation. Having a regular testing program for large meters helps utilities monitor not only production meters, but some of their highest revenue generating meters as well and ultimately hone in on accurate water audit inputs.

Reasons and consequences for large meter failures

Michael Simpson from M.E. Simpson Co. shared 7 reasons for large meter failures and their consequences:

-       age,

-       mechanical wear and tear,

-       corrosion,

-       mineral buildup,

-       fouling due to debris,

-       misuse or operation outside of the meters range, and

-       inadequate plumbing before and/or after the meter

The consequences of these potential failures include inaccurate billing of customers, lost revenue, over and under feeding of chemicals (in plant meters only), inaccurate annual reports and usage estimates, and an overall loss of control.

Meters will naturally age and experience wear and tear. Depending on water quality, other factors such as corrosion, mineral buildup, and fouling may ultimately affect meters as well. Finally, the installation configuration and operation of the meter itself can compromise the accuracy of meter reads. Due to the variety of issue types, the life expectancy of large meters can be difficult to predict without closely monitoring the meters as well as the quality of water running through them over their lifetime.

Simpson recommends that utilities test and calibrate their large meters annually. A survey of the largest US utilities also found that testing of large meters occurred on an annual basis (AWWA, M6, pg 58). Testing should be conducted using a certified test meter or a pitot rod. It should be noted that testing of the 4 to 20 mA signal between a meter head and the SCADA system is not considered a valid test. 

What is a Pitot Test?

The pitot test is a common field testing method which measures differential flow pressure to determine flow velocity and ultimately flow volume (i.e. Q=VA) within a pipe. The pitot tube is inserted into the live pipe to determine the flow profile across the entire inner diameter of the pipe. Since the flow equation depends on the cross sectional area of flow, it is important to carefully measure the inner diameter of the pipe such as with a Polcon Pipe Caliper. It should also be noted that various pipe obstructions such as valves and elbows can alter the flow profile, therefore it is important to take pitot measurements on a straight line of pipe and at multiple depths within the pipe to ensure the most accurate flow volume can be determined. Furthermore, since flows may vary throughout the day, a 24-hour test is also recommended. 

Ultrasonic strap-on test meter

Strap-on ultrasonic test meters can also be used to field testing large meters in-place. The meters are minimally intrusive and similar to a pitot tube, do not disrupt flow. Measurements are calculated based on the transit-time difference method. It should be noted that the test meter should be certified and calibrated prior to use and that the manufacturer specifications for installing the test meter are followed as most require a specified amount of straight pipe both up-stream and down-stream of the test location. Furthermore, it should be noted that “once the testing begins, the testing order is from the low flows to the higher flows. Experience has shown that when most meters begin to wear or lose accuracy, it occurs at the lower flows rather than the higher” (AWWA, M6 pg 85). An advantage of ultrasonic strap-on meters is their ability to measure low flows therefore covering most, if not all flow ranges within the large meter. 

Contracted-out services

Utilities may opt to contract out services to companies such as Mars Company or to organizations such as Utah Water Research Laboratory (UWRL) for their testing and calibration of large meters. Mars Company has been offering water meter testing and technology services since 1986. At UWRL, meters and even volumes of water, can be shipped for testing in a laboratory which simulates the field piping installation. 

Large Meter Testing Practices

Portable large meter tester

Portable large meter tester

Overall, both field testing methods, pitot and ultrasonic, have their own advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed by the utility. Utilities should ensure that proper training is conducted for all personnel responsible for large meter testing. Contracted-out services offer another alternative for utilities. As stated in the AWWA M6 manual, “no phase of water-utility operation has been handled in so many different ways as the testing of water meters...The confusion and wide variance in testing procedures result from the fact that the testing of water meters in ordinary shop practice is primarily concerned with meters that are not new but that have been removed from service and repaired. Each individual has had to begin with the information available and develop testing procedures” (AWWA, M6 pg 59). Each utility much test analyze their own system and large meter individually. A panel of utility personnel from Las Vegas, San Jose Water Company, Walnut Valley, Golden State Water, and MWD revealed the following:

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  • Utilities are using a mix of in-house and contracted-out large meter testing services

  • Testing programs vary from 180 days to 4 years. Some vary the testing frequency based on the amount of revenue that the meter generates

  • For utilities with large quantities of large meters, a statistical calculator such as Roasoft, is used to determine how many of its new meters to test. 

  • Utilities are currently managing test data on spreadsheets but are looking for software to better manage their data in a central location while also allowing for integration with their customer care portals, MDM systems, and other analytics software platforms

Overall, more and more utilities are proactively testing and replacing their large meters and are uncovering significant savings. Methods for developing these programs still vary today, but new testing services, research, and analytics are continuing to be developed to help utilities uncover significant savings through more proactive approaches to meter maintenance


Congratulations Imagine H2O Asia!

By: Christine Boyle, CEO

On July 16-19 in Singapore, Imagine H2O Asia launched its inaugural Asia Water Innovation Week. Activities were hosted by Enterprise Singapore, and in collaboration with Singapore PUB. Eight companies were selected for the inaugural Imagine H2O Asia cohort, from an application pool of 110 water startups. Here is a listing of the cohort companies, plus WateROAM, a participant of the San Francisco 2019 cohort:

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Xylem - Digital Solutions Director Christine Boyle delivered a talk to the startups called ‘All the Way to the Exit: A Founder’s Perspective on Managing Growth’ during the Day-2 activities at Singapore Water Exchange. Founders were engaged and full of the energy it takes to build a successful water start up. 

The culmination of the week was Demo Day Presentations and Awards. Each founder gave a four-minute long demo to an audience of investors, startups, utility officials, sponsors, and more. Nine judges deliberated to decide on the 2019 prize winners. After a hard-fought deliberation session, the judges selected Pani Energy as the 2019 Imagine H2O Asia winner. MicroHAOPS received honorable mention.

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Three cheers to Nimesh Modak, Tom Ferguson, Scott Bryan, Kelly Trott, Kelven Lam, and Ellie Baker for this successful launch in Asia.

Valor Water at the GAWP Annual Conference in Savannah

By: Alex Puryear, Business Development Manager

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Once again, the Georgia Association of Water Professionals annual conference in Savannah proved to be a great event. Georgia utilities have always been at the head of the pack when adopting new technologies to help them lower their non-revenue water. For this reason, Valor Water has seen Georgia as a key state to succeed in.

 This year’s turnout surpassed expectations. We were able to connect with many current clients and meet new prospective clients who were excited to hear more about our apparent loss solution. I especially enjoyed hearing my colleagues, Jennifer Stevens from Emnet and Brad Gresham from Wachs Water give presentations to the group.

If you ever find yourself in Savannah, make sure to check out The Olde Pink House or Alligator Soul. Both great places to eat!

Looking forward to future GAWP events.

You can find more information about the Georgia Association of Water Professionals on their website.