Innovation in Hydraulic Modeling

Oct. 8, 2017
In the following Q&A, Bentley's Gregg Herrin discusses the concept of OPTIONEERING and how it addresses challenges within the water industry.

Q&A with Bentley's Gregg Herrin about OPTIONEERING

Gregg Herrin leads the team responsible for product management of Bentley's geospatial applications as well as the hydraulics and hydrology applications. He joined Bentley Systems in 2004 when Bentley acquired Haestad Methods, a pioneer in the hydraulics and hydrology software industry. In the following Q&A, Herrin discusses the concept of OPTIONEERING and how it addresses challenges within the water industry.

WATERWORLD: What is Optioneering? Is it an application? A capability? A methodology?

GREGG HERRIN: Optioneering is the process of considering a wide range of possible solutions in detail, to arrive at the best outcome. For example, when a hydraulic modeler or engineer designs part of a water or wastewater system, they go through an optioneering process where they simulate numerous what-if scenarios, considering a combination of various system loads and possible designs. As a result, these infrastructure professionals can confidently select a design that is the most performant, with the least cost.

WW: What challenge is this process mainly addressing?

GH: In the water industry, challenges typically include increasing the capacity of the infrastructure, whether in a water distribution or wastewater system, so that it meets required service levels while minimizing costs -- all without compromising safety for field technicians or for the population in general.

Because of the multitude of variables to be considered and the complexity of the networks themselves, addressing these concerns is a huge task. The rise of optioneering methods and capabilities is in response to these challenges, allowing utility professionals to manage those variables, predict the outcomes for each scenario, and fully understand the impact of any proposed changes.

WW: What would the pitfalls about not using OPTIONEERING be?

GH: Without better capabilities, most engineers fall back on processes where they only evaluate a couple of options, and they may only look at a few resulting considerations for each option. Consequently, they may arrive at solutions that are costlier than they need to be, or have unforeseen performance deficiencies or other unintended issues. Without using a stronger optioneering approach, the decisions made are far less informed than they should be.

WW: Is there any type of project that OPTIONEERING using hydraulic models would be most useful for?

GH: Making better-informed decisions is a good thing for every project, so engineers and modelers can apply optioneering methods to assess trade-offs throughout the infrastructure lifecycle for water and wastewater systems: from planning and design, to the operation and maintenance of their networks. The key objectives may be different for each project, but the concepts and the ability to use these capabilities for optioneering is flexible enough to apply everywhere.

For example, for planning purposes a user may want to evaluate a range of long-term population growth projections, consider the possible impacts of water conservation efforts, and look at the performance of the system over a series of time horizons (10 years out, 20 years out, and so on). Through optioneering, every combination of inputs can be easily considered, simulated, and evaluated against the desired cost and performance criteria. And in design projects, users can look at a variety of possibilities: from simple things like different pipe sizes, to more complex things like entirely different routes for connecting subnetworks to the mains. Through optioneering, each of these ideas can be explored fully, to find the best balance between under-designing (where the system may not perform under certain conditions) and over-designing (where the cost is too high).

WW: How about operations and maintenance projects -- is this optioneering process useful too?

GH: Yes, definitely! There are numerous uses in operations and maintenance, from normal everyday things like reducing pumping costs, to smoothly handling planned outages, to dealing with emergencies swiftly and wisely.

Pumping costs, for example, account for such a high proportion of a water utility's operating budget that it's important to actively manage and minimize energy consumption as much as possible while maintaining appropriate service levels. Bentley's model management capabilities enable users to perform multiple energy analyses with alternative pricing for pumping stations in different parts of the system, so utilities can identify the best pumping strategies to save energy while avoiding system bottlenecks or water quality problems.

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In a recent interview with WaterWorld, Gregg Herrin offers his perspectives on the concept of "smart water" and how the Internet of Things plays into a smart water strategy.

Different emergency types, such as contamination, power outages, fires, or pipe breaks can also be modeled in preparation for emergencies, enabling the utility personnel to estimate response time and resources needed, ultimately offering an intelligent pre-planning emergency response system. And when a real emergency does happen, optioneering can help the utility respond with a fast and effective set of actions to control the situation and restore the system to its fully-functioning state.

Even for standard maintenance, optioneering can help a utility execute planned outages better. And for rehabilitation practices, optioneering can assist a utility in evaluating the effects that various renewal strategies will have on the entire system. This allows an organization to make smarter decisions about their investments while reducing the risk of failures.

WW: Do you have specific projects where your users have gone through the process of OPTIONEERING their water or wastewater system?

GH: There are literally tens of thousands of engineers and modelers who use our optioneering tools to help drive their decision-making processes. We are driven by their success, so we really enjoy seeing the positive impacts they make by optioneering with our applications.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission's Development Services Group, for example, reviews hydraulics for approximately 160 proposed development plans per year, which include extensions of the water and sewer system as well as approximately 172 small site utility plans that connect to the existing water and sewer network in two large Maryland counties.

The hydraulic engineers are determining the appropriate sizes for the proposed mains, while considering various what-if scenarios that focus on the system integrity and needed infrastructure to provide adequate pressure and fire protection for future customers. Because model scenarios in WaterGEMS and SewerGEMS are now created for each development phase of a project, they can be reviewed for hydraulic integrity and adequacy easier and faster. The developers who choose to move forward with partial release of project phases can receive a response from WSSC quicker, which keeps the contractors and the utility moving forward more effectively.

==> Read more about how the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission achieved major reductions in hydraulic plan review cycle times

Another great example is in the Gloucester water network in Australia, where the network was having trouble maintaining service and adequate pressure with the seven booster pumps that were relied on. MidCoast Water developed over 100 what-if scenarios in WaterGEMS, with various combinations of reservoir heights, pressure reducing valve locations, and water demands, to optioneer the best solution. Scenario comparison was used to find the best tradeoff between energy use and the number of reservoirs.

The selected solution not only provides consistent water supply and adequate pressure, for Gloucester residents, it also results in significantly reduced operation costs.

==> Read more about how MidCoast Water simulated over 100 scenarios in WaterGEMS to optioneer the best solution

To summarize, the needs of every system are different, but many hydraulic modelers within water utilities and their consulting organizations are already reaping the benefits of OPTIONEERING for their water or wastewater systems. We are proud to see the positive outcomes detailed in so many project submissions to Bentley's Be Inspired Awards program, which presents awards to organizations that have successfully implemented Bentley solutions in large-scale projects at our annual Year in Infrastructure conference, and this year's submissions are no different.