Posted on June 13, 2018 by Kristan Rokkjær
A major challenge facing water utilities today is not having enough information about what’s going on in the distribution network. But there don’t have to be any secrets. At Kamstrup, we believe that a completely transparent distribution network and updated underground situational data are key to addressing this challenge. We want to share our vision and insight with you. Therefore, in this series, we move closer to the future in terms of Smart Districts (district metered areas) and inform you of solutions for minimising loss and optimising operations and – especially – product quality.
From loop-network to Smart District
Over time, basic supply-grid topology for water distribution has changed concurrent to changes in water-sector problems and challenges. A few years ago, keen focus on reliability of supply prompted many water utilities to establish a loop-network supply grid. The advantage of having loop-network is that if a supply branch to one area is shut off, it is merely supplied via a loop connection from a different supply branch.
By contrast, the disadvantage is that it can be difficult to isolate a source of contamination, as the nature of the loop connections makes it difficult to determine how the contamination has spread through the supply grid. In addition, a vast loop-networked supply grid ends up working like a black box, where, even if you know how much water is being pumped in, it becomes an overwhelming task to localise any leaks in the grid.
The intensifying focus on water loss, energy efficiency and the ability to restrain contamination incidents means that utilities have been structuring the supply grid by dividing it into smaller supply zones with only one supply branch open at a time, also known as districts.
This structuring of the supply grid makes it easier to restrain a contamination incident after it has been discovered in a district, but it also enables utilities to focus efforts on limiting water loss related to water distribution.
Dividing up districts with valves makes it possible to continue supplying each district in an emergency via several different routes. This maintains a high supply reliability.
Establishing Smart Districts
Previously, an inherent challenge to establishing districts was the cost of setting up wells for district meters. Modern technology with battery-powered remote-read district meters has made it far less expensive to establish district metering.
One reason is that it is no longer necessary to establish a power supply or SCADA communication lines for district metering. In some cases, it is even possible to do entirely without the well and just bury the meter and lay an antenna up to the surface to establish remote reading. This method is particularly useful in built-up areas where finding space for a district well can be difficult and the costs saved by not having to establish the well are also significant.
To fully exploit the potential of setting up Smart Districts, the remote reading of household meters must also be set up in each district. It is important to choose a technology that read meters with sufficient frequency to be able to categorise water loss in each district. Choosing the right technology also makes it easy to establish pressure measurements at several locations as the communication infrastructure used to read the household meters can be used to read the battery-powered pressure sensors.
Long live Smart Districts!
Combining a Smart District-structured supply grid with remotely-read meters brings with it real benefits. Metering data increases the value of the investment in the Smart District system and makes the fight against water loss far more efficient than ever. Not only does it provide an ongoing overview of water loss in each Smart District. The prompt registration of the effects of the implemented initiatives is also crucial. Finally, the possibility of categorising water loss enables utilities to implement the correct measures in each Smart District and thereby avoid wasting resources on solutions that do not have the desired effect.
With Smart Districts, water utilities will start using data in earnest to ensure the efficient, reliable distribution of water.