Escondido, California, has been on a growth trajectory, having tripled the typical rate of development in the past few years.
The city currently distributes water services through 440 miles of 2- to 48-inch pipes to a population of over 150,000 residents and has 11 reservoir sites. Its water treatment plant treats local and imported sources to produce drinking water for its service area of 26,000 connections.
With new development comes an increased demand on water supply.
“You need to be able to manage all of that,” points out Rob Van De Hey, Escondido’s director of information systems and deputy city manager. “With new development, comes new infrastructure needs. That has the potential to impact existing aging infrastructure creating the need to monitor, adjust and balance the system. We need the tools and technology to do that.”
This question – against the backdrop of a national D grade that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave drinking water infrastructure in 2017 – indicates the ability to monitor utility performance in real time becomes more important with each day for utilities nationwide, he says.
Escondido has used Cityworks and Esri’s ArcGIS® for its asset management system for several years. Water utility managers took advantage of an offer from Trimble to do a pilot program for creating a ‘system of action’ that focuses on leveraging their investment in Esri’s ArcGIS® and water sensor data, location intelligence, and analytics tools. The Trimble system was implemented by combining Cityworks and ArcGIS asset management solution with Trimble’s Telog IoT pressure recorders and Trimble Unity Remote Monitoring software.
During the first month of a two-month pilot program, utility crews worked to fine tune it by establishing criteria thresholds as to best leverage the voluminous information available.
“Getting that criteria down, making sure you understand the system and making the appropriate adjustments to pressure regulators in the area is important to get to the desired results,” notes Rico Jimenez, water distribution superintendent.
“We get alerts and alarms when things happen throughout the system, which is crucial,” Jimenez notes. “Some of the other pressure recorders we currently have can’t get down to the millisecond and sometimes events aren’t captured. Having that even flow of real-time information and alarms is huge and helps us make adjustments throughout the system.”
Van De Hey notes the adaption of Trimble’s technology into the city’s operations leveraged an opportunity in the city’s ongoing technology evolution.
“For years, we’ve been going down that path and this was the next step in being more efficient, getting better at what we do, looking for cost savings and better operations,” he says.
“IoT devices are the next step in the process of enhancing management data driven decisions.”
Members of Escondido’s water utility team favor different aspects of the Trimble technology. Van De Hey’s focus is analyzing the incoming data for operational improvement.
“It is important that we use data to reduce the risk level,” he adds. “It’s the ability to react in real time to a spike which will prevent breaks and reduce the cost associated with that risk,” note’s Van De Hey. By utilizing the Trimble technology, “we’re creating more efficient workflows, preventative maintenance and reacting to emergencies faster. We’re more aware of what’s going on. It’s not so much a reactive situation. It starts to become a more real-time system management.”
“A couple of the supervisors prefer the desktop web-browser version. The website portal has way more information and you can really dive deep into it and make adjustments,” says Jimenez. “But with the ease of the app, I use that more than anything. The alerts are huge. I like the ease of being able to log on real quick to see what is going on.”
Using the app, Jimenez was able to look at real-time and historical data and connect the dots in a particular problem area with two pressure recorders. One is at a Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) station modulating the constant water flow where Jimenez expected to see more movement in pressure on the downstream side of the PRV in response to supply and demand. Another is deployed at a fire hydrant.
“We were consistently having breaks during the cold season and would come to find that we were having pressure transient spikes through our system that we couldn’t capture with the old pressure readers we had,” says Jimenez. “We didn’t know that until we were able to use the Trimble recorders to get the real-time alerts and consistently see them overnight getting to the high end.
“We were able to capture those, see a consistent spike and the transient spikes overnight and be able to make some adjustments to fine tune each one of the valves for that zone, and double check all of our zone valves to make sure everything was tight in the way it needed to be. That was huge for us because we would not have caught that without that real time pressure readings and the alerts.”
Real-time sensor-based information can enable utilities to improve preventative maintenance procedures and increase operational awareness, Van De Hey points out. “There’s nothing but benefits with this type of solution,” he adds.
Being able to do a pilot program with the Trimble technology was a plus, says Van De Hey.
“We started seeing right away that we were able to make some changes and improvements within days,” he adds. “It was a huge success for us, with minimal investment other than time and energy into it to realize that this is really the right direction for us and the right product for us.”
“It’s going to integrate really well into our workflows and our daily processes. Without the pilot program, you’re investing significant time and money and you’re guessing to see if it’s going to work.”
Not having real-time pressure recording means missing transient spikes and not being able to respond to events as they are occurring, Jimenez says.
“Real-time pressure recording information is invaluable in having the ability to see what the system is doing during off peak hours and being able to fine tune some of those criteria,” Jimenez says.
“It’s a great tool,” he adds. “I see the value in having that real time information and technology out there. This is something where the money is well spent once you have the information at your fingertips. Information is key, but you have to do something with that information as well. It’s a matter of fine-tuning it so it works for your purpose. The technology is amazing.”
The main goal in bringing Trimble technology into Escondido’s water utility operations is to protect the ratepayers’ money, says Jimenez of the city’s investment. “They pay us to make sure that the infrastructure that supplies them is running efficiently.”
“We don’t need to have these transient spikes and can focus our time, effort and money on repairing leaks that can’t be prevented. That’s an absolute benefit to the community and the rate payers.”
Utilizing the Trimble technology has enabled Escondido utility managers to budget more accurately for upcoming fiscal years for the “newest, greatest” technology, Jimenez says.
“It’s worth its weight in gold,” he adds. “It’s definitely a technology I recommend to any utility, especially when they’re having problematic zones or areas where they’re not able to pinpoint what’s going on.”