South Australia’s water authority is employing advanced technologies for the enhanced management of urban water systems on an unprecedented scale, enabling them to fully extract the benefits of BIM during the operational phase of their infrastructure assets.

According to Bentley Systems vice president Alan Savin, SA Water has incorporated the BIM models produced for the design and development of its Adelaide desalination plant into the management of its network system in order achieve remarkable benefits during management and operation.

“The original Adelaide desalination plant was built with BIM, so they started it right from there,” he said. “One of the key things with BIM is optioneering – the true way to bring down the cost of a facility is to look at all the energy costs and maintenance costs, et cetera – and they did this right back at the beginning of the construction phase.”

Savin said BIM models played a key role in enabling SA Water to engage in predictive analytics for the improvement of system performance.

“There is a network operating model that connects into the Adelaide desalination plant and brings together all that data and information using hydraulic and hydrology water modelling technologies for them to be able create the foundation of the BIM data,” he said.

“Asset performance management technology then adds the brains on top of all this to perform the predictive analytics. This enabled them to obtain a BIM return on investment that was much, much higher than anyone ever anticipated.”

Savin said predictive analytics has enabled SA Water to achieve remarkable cost savings due to its ability to accurately project systems demand.

“The system can forward predict when they need to move water and pump it around, by measuring external sets of co-operational data like weather forecasts or sporting events, and coupling that with how the water network is actually producing, how much water is flowing from point A to point B, and figuring out just the right time of when to pump water from one reservoir to another to serve Adelaide,” he said.

“As a result they are able to forward purchase electricity at a much cheaper rate than they would if they just used it as demanded – they reckon that the first day that they employed the system they saved over a million dollars, so that’s been a true success on the operational side.”

Bentley’s solutions director for project delivery Paul King noted that the use of Darwinian algorithms in combination with BIM technology is the key to achieving effective predictive analytics for complex water networks.

“With software called Darwinian algorithms, you can take their intended design performance – so all their flows right down the main branches to the consumer level of each house and apartment – and predict how the pressure should vary over time based on demand and usage,” said King. “This is based on things like design parameters, the condition of the pipes, and age of the system in various parts of the network.

“Not only do consumers get better customer service, because leaks can be pinned down quicker, but time and money is also saved without the need to chase around and excavate, because those algorithms point them to where that leak is likely to happen.”

According to King, South Australia is employing Darwinian algorithms on an unprecedented scale for the management of its water networks.

“The application that does the Darwinian algorithms to predict the system performance is being employed in the UK with some big water authorities as well, but South Australia Water is employing it for the first time on such a large, complex and integrated scale,” he said.