Beyond BIM: Advancements in Modeling and Asset Performance Help Global Infrastructure Go Digital

As the conversation around utility asset management has evolved from best practices and strategic management to incorporating the use of data analytics, new concepts are trending toward better integration to address a range of business problems. Water and wastewater utilities looking to enhance their asset performance modeling now have new capabilities to heighten decision making.

One of the main concepts behind asset performance modeling is that the convergence of technologies and their data can assist organizations to move from a reactive to proactive, predictive mode in their asset management.

For water and wastewater utilities, the use of hydraulic modeling allows operators to create a representation of the system that is gathering data from numerous sources like smart metering, GIS, SCADA and other monitoring and information systems. What makes a model unique is its ability to integrate various systems. Still, the purpose of that model is to represent the system. From that representation, a water utility may model its distribution system to help determine the capital improvements necessary to meet the current and future needs of the population it serves. It may also use the model to understand things like how to respond to emergencies such as water main breaks or unplanned water usage. The model can also provide information about minimizing impacts to the overall system or to show what to do in response to unexpected events or emergencies.

Historical data gathered by smart metering can also be used to estimate average and peak demands and patterns needed for the model, and the real-time demand data can be used to set the initial conditions for simulations and for demand forecasting. It is here that connected data environments and the integration of these systems applied to business processes can be valuable. This can help utilities achieve better outcomes like reduced costs, improved service and reduce risk.

According to software provider Bentley Systems, connected data environments are beneficial to infrastructure advancement because capital improvement projects can benefit from the continuity of digital engineering models. A connected data environment advances the convergence of engineering technologies with information technologies and operational technologies.

For example, Bentley now provides a configuration for wastewater operators and managing inspection information, combined with different types of network and spatial analysis. This provides utilities insight into asset condition, inspection history, possible defects and the risk and consequence of failure.

“To [utility managers], it’s all about risk mitigation,” says Bob Mankowski, vice president, asset performance, with Bentley Systems. “The risk in this case is the probability of failure of an asset and the consequence of that failure and bringing those things together. AssetWise lets you collect that data and use that data and analyze that data. Beyond that, it allows you the ability to see how your interventions impacted the situation.”

Mankowski adds that while modeling technology is very scalable to utility size, water and wastewater utilities sometimes lag behind in gathering the necessary data to integrate into the model to make it as effective as possible.

“One of the challenges that utilities face is that it’s not just about the cost of the technology itself, but the cost of collecting the data they need to put into the [model],” he says. “If they’re not resourced to do that, it’s a challenge.”

System Integration

Water and wastewater utilities use a variety of models for asset management, such as water quality modeling, energy use modeling, reliability and performance modeling and operational analytics. Recently, the next step for this technology has focused on the ability to allow operators to have better decision support for the full lifecycle of their assets, from planning and design to construction, operations and maintenance.

“These systems have historically been planning tools and now there’s this opportunity to turn them into operational tools,” says Graham Symmonds, chief knowledge officer and senior vice president at FATHOM.

“While we at FATHOM, deal in the customer meter-to-cash vertical, what we’re actually dealing with is real-time consumption, and that is something that hydraulic models have never had. Now they have access to that. [Utilities] can now use AMI information, along with their SCADA information, combined into that hydraulic model to get a real-time assessment of what’s happening in the distribution system.

“There are really tremendous ways in which AMI is the lever bringing hydraulic models and other planning tools into the operational fold and out of the planning side.”

Addressing Global Water Challenges


Sabesp laid additional pipeline to expand the Metropolitan Integrated System (SIM), the regional water supply system, in order to equally distribute available water to residents of São Paulo, Brazil.

Addressing a Water Crisis in São Paulo

Sabesp supplies water to more than half of the municipalities in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, including the 20 million residents of the metropolitan region of São Paulo. It is one of the world’s largest water and sewage services providers, with 24.8 million water supply customers and 21.3 million sewage collection customers in 366 municipalities. The state-owned company serves densely populated urban areas, where the availability of water and sanitation can be uneven.

Beginning in 2013, a 16-month dry spell threatened the water supply from the Cantareira basin, the metro area’s main water source. Sabesp acted quickly to avoid waterrationing that would be both unpopular and economically devastating. Using Bentley System’s WaterGEMS to assemble and calibrate a hydraulic model of the entire water network, Sabesp evaluated 80 what-if scenarios before selecting an alternative that capitalized on the interconnection between producer systems. The solution allowed water to be transferred into the Cantareira system with minimal adjustments to infrastructure. Sabesp estimated that it took 50 percent less time to find a solution by modeling with WaterGEMS, the shortest hydraulic solution time the team of engineers and modeling specialists ever experienced.

By running multiple simulations in the WaterGEMS hydraulic model, Sabesp was able to identify the most viable scenario for supplying more water to its customers amid the drought. The process took half as long as previous methodologies and delivered effective solutions that could be rolled out quickly, despite daunting constraints. The integration of GIS, SCADA and PIMS reduced data collection time by 70 percent and model calibration time by 80 percent. These time savings expedited Sabesp’s crisis response time.


The Sabesp project in São Paulo connected numerous water systems – shown here in different colors – within the metropolitan area to supplement the water supply and limit pulling from the Cantareira system.

Manilla Water Risk Mitigation

Manila Water is an enterprise that provides water, wastewater and environmental services to several major cities in the Philippines. Due to the country’s location in the Pacific, typhoons brought on by equatorial currents are common. The Philippines experience about 20 typhoons every year with around half of it making actual landfall. These typhoons are getting stronger year by year. A strong typhoon or an earthquake can damage 22 percent of Manila Water’s assets, affecting the six million customers.

Manila Water Company developed its Natural Calamity Risk Mitigation and Contingency Masterplan in coordination with relevant government agencies. The project aims to mitigate the adverse effects of natural events to ensure optimal supply during disaster and natural calamities.

“Risk mitigation and contingency comes with a huge price, but the people depending on vital services on the onset of these events outweighs its cost,” says Romulo “Arjay” Samia Jr., Wastewater System Analysis and Planning Engineer with Manila Water Company. “The challenge for Manila Water is how to continue our service while ensuring that it will not be a burden to customers.”

The objectives of the project were to mitigate both the adverse effects of natural events and calamities and ensure optimal water supply in the event of such natural disasters.

“We are using WaterGEMS and HAMMER for our water system while SewerGEMS for our used water network,” says Samia. “The Bentley software is integrated with Manila’s existing GIS application for creating and updating sensible maps. WaterGEMS was used to determine the criticality of lines, calculate the impact of its breakage both in terms of amount of water outage and systems affected, design options for network redundancy, create different scenarios and choose the most economical solution.”

What’s Next?

The next step for asset performance modeling and connected data environments is to enable business and operational intelligence analytics to have open and live access to information within digital engineering models. This will allow engineering technologies to be enhanced with information and operational technologies to improve the lifecycle, safety and reliability of infrastructure asset performance.

In the case of water and wastewater utilities, having these new capabilities can help minimize the lifecycle costs of owning and operating infrastructure, while continuing to improve levels of service.

Andrew Farr is associate editor of Water Finance & Management.

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