Pressure Control System Helps District Conserve Water

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IBM Research scientists and the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), which supplies water to more than 600,000 people in the heart of Northern California's wine country, have teamed up to address the pressing problem of water conservation.

The new program, which builds on an existing IBM-SCWA water management collaboration, uses analytics technology to help Valley of the Moon Water District (VOMWD), a purchaser of wholesale water from SCWA, to reduce water loss. This is done by optimizing the setting of the pressure reducing valves at the entrance to the district's distribution network based on data from existing sensors as well as from SCADA, billing, pressure gauges, and flow loggers throughout the water system.

Prior to deploying IBM's advanced analytics, operations staff had to continuously – and manually –adjust the pressure of each valve to maintain optimal pressure across the system – a time consuming and inefficient process. Photo courtesy of Valley of the Moon Water District

"We're helping SCWA and Valley of the Moon to more efficiently analyze data, anticipate problems and manage resources," said IBM Smarter Water Program Director Michael Sullivan. "The ability to track water at such a granular level helps SCWA and Valley of the Moon make informed decisions about how to manage – and conserve – water along its entire lifecycle."

Developed by scientists at IBM Research – Haifa in Israel, the pressure management system provides recommendations for water pressure adjustments based on usage, weather, and environmental conditions. The benefits of improved pressure management include reduced water loss, energy savings, and reduced wear on the infrastructure – alongside an improvement in the quality and turnover of stored water.

"We are proud to partner with IBM and SCWA on this first-of-a-kind program to field test a non-invasive analytical tool to better manage water pressure and potentially locate leaks," said Krishna Kumar, General Manager, Valley of the Moon Water District.

IBM Researcher Segev Wasserkrug tests IBM's analytics-based water pressure management system in California. Photo courtesy of IBM.

Managing the pressure of a water system and its pipes, valves, pumps, tanks and other equipment is a complex task. If a well stops working, some water tanks will not be filled. If pressure is increased to fill those tanks, other tanks may not be emptying as often as they should to maintain a proper exchange of water and maintain required water quality. Or, if there is a leak, reducing the pressure to one pipe will reduce the amount of water lost through the pipe, but it also means that some consumers may not have enough pressure in their taps at home.

Prior to working with IBM, Valley of the Moon operations staff had to continuously – and manually – adjust the pressure of each valve to maintain optimal pressure across the system – a time consuming and inefficient process. Now, IBM analytics provides the engineers with detailed information and recommendations for optimal settings for each valve based on what's happening across the entire system so that valves can be adjusted as necessary.

In addition to the pressure management work, IBM and SCWA are extending the new technology to also enable leak detection by comparing real-time information about the water system with expected and historical values.

The Sonoma County Water Agency has been using IBM's water management system to gather and analyze water usage data of its customers since 2010. The goal is to help the county conserve water.

By bringing together and analyzing data including water usage and quality, weather and climate, and environmental considerations, IBM's water management system is helping SCWA make better decisions about resource allocation dynamically based on near real-time information. The system includes geographical and system map views so SCWA and its partner stakeholders can identify and address specific issues such as low chlorine residual or low storage tank levels, in minutes rather than hours.

In addition to integrating and analyzing information collected from SCWA and participating retail water providers, upgraded water meters, and external sources, such as the United States Geological Survey and the National Weather Service, the system provides collaboration tools that allow all stakeholders to share and access information.

The system consolidates and analyzes the data, which is then made available through a web portal. Dashboards provide a collective view and new levels of insight into the overall status of the system. In addition, the system provides analytic capabilities that enable users to slice and dice data as needed, rather than having to rely on pre-defined reports. This analysis can include historical trend studies to determine seasonal variations in flow and water quality, on which future decisions may be based.

According to IBM, its system is helping the SCWA increase water use efficiency while balancing "urban, agricultural and environmental imperatives, including habitat improvement and species protection."

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