‘GIS maintains a single source of truth for utilities’

‘GIS maintains a single source of truth for utilities’

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Malcolm Walter
Malcolm Walter
Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, Bentley

The entire infrastructure lifecycle of water utilities deploys GIS, says Malcolm Walter, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, Bentley, as he explains how the technology ultimately ensures long-term system sustainibility by decreasing not only pipe breaks, but also lost revenues

How fundamental is geospatial technology to water utility workflows?
Utility networks are inherently geospatial. When we talk about assets that are spread over thousands of kilometres, above or under the earth, geospatial information becomes fundamental to such networks. Geoenabled software helps designers and engineers deliver potable water by providing solutions for the entire infrastructure lifecycle — from planning, designing, and construction, to operation and maintenance of water and wastewater systems. Some of these solutions can address the entire water lifecycle: from water treatment plants and network systems to distribute that water to consumers, to a network to collect sewerage and wastewater treatment plants. They also perform hydraulic analysis, which enables engineers to know how many pumps they need, what is the right size of the pipes, and whether there is enough capacity, and also help the users identify leaks in the system.

Geospatial tools can also improve the quality of asset planning, and identify what piping assets need attention based on pipe breakage, capacity, or criticality. This technology ultimately ensures long-term system reliability by decreasing not only pipe breaks and leakage, but also lost revenues and outages.

As much as 30% of water in the global distribution systems is lost before it gets to consumers because of network breaks caused by age and deterioration. In some cases, pipes might break due to water transients, and in others, the water loss might be due to illegal connections.

GIS can maintain a ‘single source of truth’ for utilities. It is typically used, from an engineering point of view, in the planning and operation stages of the water and wastewater infrastructure lifecycle. For example, when an asset is rehabilitated or replaced, or when new pipes in a newly developed area extend the existing network, the GIS information is updated. When an analysis is performed to see how to optimise the pump operations in that new area, the hydraulic model is synchronised to the GIS. This allows the simulated results to reflect what would actually happen in the network. Interoperability among geospatial and water and wastewater products is crucial for improving and sustaining water infrastructure.

Bentley is a leading geospatial player in the water utility segment. What sets you apart from your competitors?
Our innovative technology for water utilities has become a key component for the design, operation, and maintenance of the water infrastructure lifecycle. Bentley is not just focused on innovation in features and capabilities, but also in assembling the most complete solution in the market for water and wastewater utility owner-operators. This solution covers GIS, hydraulic and hydrology, asset performance management, engineering content management and team collaboration, mobile apps, and more.

What differentiates Bentley from our competitors is that we offer an integrated solution. Bentley’s fully integrated water and wastewater solution addresses the needs of owner-operators and engineers who contribute to the water infrastructure lifecycle. Its powerful capabilities enhance mapping and data management, information sharing and collaboration, hydraulic simulation and analysis, design and construction documentation, field engineering and inspection, and operations and maintenance.

We also provide support to the entire water lifecycle. The Bentley solution meets the needs of water infrastructure professionals by covering the entire design, build, and operate lifecycle, and provides a comprehensive mapping, modeling, and engineering design environment.


Bentley’s Pond Pack user interface streamlines network layout, data entry and output viewing

GIS had entered the utility enterprise simply as a system for automating map production, but has now evolved into a core-enabling technology. Why is CAD-GIS integration important in a utilities project?
Seamless integration of GIS and CAD gives our users the best of both the worlds. It enables integration of geospatial technology into engineering workflows, to support the design, construction, and operation of sustainable infrastructure. For example, Bentley Map leverages the powerful 3D capabilities of MicroStation, so that users can create and edit 3D objects with ease. This is how Bentley Map has been used by many city governments to create 3D city models. 3D City GIS means providing an integrated, above ground and below ground, information model of a city, comprising not just the built environment but also the utility infrastructure. These 3D infrastructure information models are used in ‘call-before-you-dig’ workflows as well as in infrastructure design and maintenance.

Do you think integration of BIM and GIS is the future for water utilities?
Yes, indeed, BIM is utilised for the maintenance of water pipes. The information model contains pipe attributes such as pipe material and roughness coefficient, which can be used in criticality analysis, for example, using WaterCAD or WaterGEMS. This type of analysis helps identify critical mains, defined as pipes that would interrupt service for a large number of customers if shutdowns occur. This information can then be taken into account by WaterGEMS’ Pipe Renewal Planner tool, in the form of a criticality score, which, when combined with a fire flow capacity score, pipe break data, year installed, material, neighbourhood, etc. will prioritise pipes for renewal.

Which according to you are the future areas of application of geospatial technology in the water utility sector?
Hydraulic models for the analysis and design of water and wastewater systems are typically used by the engineering department. In the past few years, hydraulic models have used operational data as input (for calibration purposes, for example), so the information moved from the operations department to the engineering department. Now, we are seeing the information go the other way, putting the power of hydraulic analysis and results in the hands of operators. This breakthrough improves the information mobility between departments and, consequently, will greatly improve the overall productivity of utility professionals. It also means better operational and emergency response time, as well as improved decision making capabilities.